Friday, April 23, 2010

New Craft Gallery in Rockland

Here is proof that something really good can come of unfortunate decisions made by others. Barbara Michelena was a board member at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) from 2000 until the end of 2009. During that time she also developed the highly regarded annual Work of the Hand Crafts Show and Sale as well as CMCA's gallery shop, both of which she is no longer involved in. Now Barbara will do her own thing: on May 28 her gallery of high quality craft will open in the carriage house of the Caldbeck Gallery on Elm Street in Rockland. Simply called “CRAFT” the enterpise has a more sophisticated, descriptive tag line: “A curated collection of fine contemporary craft.” When i expressed my concern about the use of the word “to curate” Michelena explained, “it means that I personally selected the works in the gallery during studio visits with the artists, keeping in mind how their work would complement each others'.” Some of the artists she has selected so far include Susan Atwater, Morris David Dorenfeld, Jan Muddle, George Pearlman, Daphne Taylor, and Simon van der Ven. Many of them are familiars from the Work of the Hand shows and all have a connection to Maine. In opening this commercial gallery for high end craft Michelena wants to do her part in treasuring hand-made beautiful objects in a world dominated by mass production. Cynthia Hyde, co-owner of the Caldbeck Gallery, says she is thrilled to have Barbara as their new neighbor, allowing her and partner Jim Kinnealey to focus their time and energy on the main gallery spaces.

Michelena graduated from Pratt Institute in 1952 and went on to work as an interior and graphics designer for large architectural and design companies in New York and Los Angeles, where she subsequently opened her own office until moving to Maine in 1991. She welcomes craft artists to contact her at The gallery will be open until November 1, Thursdays through Mondays with Tuesday and Wednesday open by appointment. Personally, i think this is a long overdue expansion of Rockland's art offerings and i congratulate Barbara on her vision and élan.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Randy Regier's NuPenny Installation

Intrigued by the opportunity to see an entire environment created in the mind and basement studio of Randy Regier, a few weeks ago some friends and i went on a pilgrimage. Regier's NuPenny Toy Store on view in Waterville until April 30 is absolutely worth the trip (o.k., also go to the Colby Museum of Art while you're there). The artist creates objects from re-purposed materials with such incredible skill and imagination that it is always hard to grasp that he hand-made from scratch, or rather, from found materials, such perfectly conceived toys. But they are not playthings; they are off in some odd way.

I had included some of Randy's work in the exhibition Comic-al at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art last year, but the contrast between those colorful toy creations and the sculptures in his NuPenny store installation couldn't be greater. Gone is the edgy yet light-hearted humor and nostalgia for sci-fi toys, stories, and imagery from his childhood. Instead, this overwhelmingly monochrome work excudes a sense of menace from inside the locked storefront to catch us, who are peeking in through the windows, and give us an unsettling feeling of a rift in the world. The location of the installation at an old mill building perfectly parallels this shift in reality. What we see is of this world yet it isn't. The gray atmosphere created by the robots and spaceships, their boxes and even the store's mundane implements like the tape dispenser, remind me of a black-and-white horror movie. Only here the set itself has lost all its color, its participation in our life. Some artists' creations of parallel worlds can seem escapist; not Regier's. His creations manage to hark back in time while at the same time alluding to a cold future in much more shocking ways than the sci-fi influences from his childhood that serve as his inspiration. Even our language has ceased to function in this world, instead we need to use a decoder to decipher the teletype writing on boxes and labels.

Randy Regier has received a lot of attention lately including a Maine Arts Commission 2009 Visual Arts Fellowship and several reviews in papers and magazines, the Portland Press Herald, The Boston Phoenix, and Art New England, to name just a few. The NuPenny Store will also be featured in the May issue of Maine magazine and he will have a show at Whitney Art Works next month. In his Phoenix review of the 2010 DeCordova Biennial Greg Cook claims that Regier “may be one of the best sculptors in the country” and Bob Keyes acknowledges a “streak of genius” in him. I am very glad that others share my enthusiasm and appreciation of Randy's work. Check out his websites and for more images and directions to the installation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Through this new venue of disseminating information and opinions, i would like to reach out to the art community in Maine and beyond, sharing insights, sightings, and sites. I will periodically, about once a week, post an informal exhibition review, share my enthusiasm for particular artists, describe non-existent exhibitions of my own mental creation, and muse about topics that have cropped up in my cloudy mind. I hope you will enjoy this and give creative and stimulating feed-back!