Sunday, December 28, 2014

DigPortland: Pat Corrigan at Mayo Street Arts

Of Mice and Cheese.

Portland Phoenix: Tonee Harbert at PhoPa

This, Our Curious World
Tonee Harbert casts an appreciative eye around

The dictionary on my desk defines curiosity as “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness” but also as “a curious, rare, or novel thing” and “a strange, curious, or interesting quality.” In its archaic use the word described “carefulness; fastidiousness.” PhoPa Gallery’s “Tonee Harbert: Curiosities” encompasses all those definitions in the images’ driving force, subject, character, and even execution.

Exhibited are sixteen black-and-white archival pigment prints of scanned film negatives that were taken with plastic Diana cameras. The resulting images are slightly distorted, lack sharp focus, and feature strong graininess and evenness of tone. Like a reductive filter, this visual quality acts as a distancing device, highlighting its artifice, spelling it out: you are looking at an image, not the thing itself. This is especially true for the composite dip- and triptychs in which the individual images are conspicuously outlined and not aligned. The three sections comprising Untitled_(Bridge triptych) roughly depict the iron railroad bridge itself and the banks of the river it crosses, which serves as a clear indicator of the meaningfulness and deliberateness of Harbert’s style. Elimination of details make it clear that these images are not after verisimilitude but basic forms and atmospheric moods—the expressive potential of essentials. Even an image of a flying dove appears inexplicably still and quiet; water, sky, and fog become just as solid as the rocks they envelop.

Harbert’s is a careful and consistent vision. His curiosities lie not in extraordinariness or sensational potential. They aren’t tinged by irony either. Instead, they are subtle and evanescent natural occurrences or man-made interventions into nature. Fog nearly conceals a floating crane. Streetlamps and the moon come in the same shape. A plume of smoke rising from a yard fire is strikingly white.

These images are informed by a curiosity that seems free of any angle, anger, or agenda. The images are not so much about the thing itself but about what is/has happened here, like the tree that lost a chunk of its canopy and the bird’s nest perched above water. They are more about an essence or idea than any specific incidence. (Although shooting locations are identified, it is a case in point that they do not really add anything to the experience of the images—it’s not that kind of knowledge that the artist is in pursuit of.) Thus cypresses become the essence of verticality. A seaweed covered rock is all bulk, weight, and slipperiness as it succumbs to the eternal tides. Pierced by rods, this particular boulder seems almost shamanistic or animalistic in character.

At the same time there is an interest in abstract, geometric forms of natural or human origin. Untitled_(Cliff grid) focuses on an incongruous grid hewn into (?) the side of a vertical drop. The aforementioned image, Untitled_(Street lights), plays on the more or less circular shape of light sources. And Untitled_(Barn) highlights the geometry of a barn. Man-made elements are completely integrated into nature, not destroying it. It is thus that the tower positioned at a rocky coastal edge appears particularly solid and stony with its stark edges and surrounded by jagged rocks. Yet it is clearly also fragile within nature, anchored to a base and tied down as it is. A similarly touching vulnerability pervades the image of two bushes wrapped for the winter amidst a barren field. They are hunched over like peasants draped in loose clothes, interacting with each other. I cannot help but think of The Annunciation, imbuing this scene with human, natural, and spiritual drama and mystery.

If compassion for this curious world of human and natural interaction can be depicted, these images come very close to it. Perfectly using the imperfections of the medium, Harbert’s images are nonjudgmental, appreciative of what is, not caught up in surfaces. This is a quiet viewing treat, one very much worth spending some time with.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

art current: Light, Color, and Air at Caldbeck


Rockland's Caldbeck Gallery has the perfect antidote to the winter blues on its walls.

above: Cicely Aikman - below: Kayla Mohammadi

Monday, November 24, 2014

art current: The Dilemma of Memory

Under the title The Dilemma of Memory, artworks and poems that address the ongoing impact of the Holocaust and other genocides have been gathered at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.

above: Leonard Meiselman, Enigma 2
below: Dorothy Schwartz, Boots

Sunday, November 16, 2014

art current: Work by Dyan Berk at Miles

A hospital may not be the likeliest place to see some fresh and energizing work, but that's others' loss - Dyan Berk is showing two-dimensional work of great spirit at the Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta.

left: Hiccup
below: Fertile Myrtle 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


"…it seems like the big distinction between good art and so-so art lies somewhere in the art’s heart’s purpose, the agenda of the consciousness behind the text. It’s got something to do with love. With having the discipline to talk out of the part of yourself that can love instead of the part that just wants to be loved."
- David Foster Wallace

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

art current: CMCA Biennial


The Center for Maine Contemporary Art 2014 Biennial is far from representative but it includes a wide range of media and conceptual approaches.

above: Adam John Manley
below: Scott Davis, Jeff Woodbury

Portland Phoenix: Whoever Said Painting Was Dead?


Tom Hall and Joshua Ferry provide powerful counterarguments.

above: Ferry
below: Hall 

Monday, October 13, 2014

art current: A Dialogue with Two Belfast Poets Laureate

The topic of this column is not visual art but poetry. Two Belfast poets laureate, Jacob Fricke and Ellen Sander, speak to the importance of poetry, especially for youth.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

art current: Daniel Anselmi at Carver Hill


All of Daniel Anselmi's two- and three-dimensional work is sophisticated, but his monotype and collage Monhegan Series is especially subtle, loose, and suggestive.

Portland Phoenix: Jessica Gandolf and Jack Montgomery


Susan Maasch Fine Art in Portland shows two widely different artists at crossroads in their practice: photographer Jack Montgomery and painter Jessica Gandolf.

above: Gandolf
below: Montgomery

art current: Julie H. Rose at Åarhus Gallery


Displayed in custom-made shadowboxes, Julie Rose's exquisite fabrications are paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints, fiber art, and jewelry, all at the same time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

art current: New Sculpture by Andrew White and Jared Cowan


Rockland's Asymmetrick Arts has a terrific show of sculptural work by owner Jared Cowan and Andy White up. Andy especially shines with some really impressive, powerful pieces.

Andrew White:
above - gaston, 2014, wood, paint, rubber
below - untitled, 2014, steel, wood, rubber, lead, aluminum

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

art current: Quilts from Gee's Bend at the Penobscot Marine Museum


A rare opportunity in Maine to see quilts made by African American women in the Alabama town of Gee's Bend.

top: Lucy Mingo
bottom: Stella Mae Pettway

art current: Barbara Sullivan at the Caldbeck


Fresco artist Barbara Sullivan is taking her medium of choice in new and exciting directions.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Portland Phoenix: Richard Tuttle Print Retrospective

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has mounted Richard Tuttle's first print retrospective.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

art current: Dianna Rust at Jonathan Frost

Photographer Dianna Rust specializes in historical and alternative processes. This show at Rockland's Jonathan Frost Gallery and Frame Shop is a great opportunity to see cyanotypes and lumen prints from three of her series.

Monday, July 7, 2014

art current: Monhegan, The Unfailing Muse


This year marks the quadricentennial of Captain John Smith's 1614 landing at Monhegan Island, 12 miles off the coast of what is now Maine. One of the events celebrating this occasion is the exhibition The Unfailing Muse: Monhegan at the Island Institute's Archipelago Fine Arts Gallery, Rockland. It is an eclectic show of work by 26 artists with a connection to the island.
Pictured here is Leo by Mike Stiler and a detail of the installation Go Inside the Stone by Kate Cheney Chappell. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

art current: Hands On at the Maine Media Gallery


Rockport's Maine Media Workshops + College just opened new studios for book arts and alternative process photography. In conjunction with that event, their Maine Media Gallery is showing a small group of works mostly by faculty members. Images are of work by Rebecca Goodale, Peter and Donna Thomas, Alan Vlach, and Anastasia Weigle.

Monday, June 9, 2014

art current: Stories of the Land and its People III


For the past three years, Rockland's Farnsworth Art Museum has spearheaded a program facilitating art-making and art-learning experiences in midcoast Maine schools.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Portland Phoenix: Shoshannah White's Seas of Eternity


Painting her photographs with white or black encaustic, Shoshannah White adds mystery and a sense of timelessness to her images.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

art current: Greta Van Campen at the Dowling Walsh Gallery

Greta Van Campen grew up surrounded by art, including that of her great-uncle, George Ault. Her recent hard-edged paintings show some affinities to this adherent of precisionism.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

art current: Prints at Waterfall Arts

Waterfall Arts in Belfast, Maine, has a very rewarding show of prints up right now, the result of an open call. My favorite work in the show is depicted here - as Carl Little said: Cathy Melio rocks!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Portland Phoenix: Andrea Sulzer and the space between things

Andrea Sulzer's solo exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art, throughoutsideways, is a stunning display of this artist's brainy and playful curiosity about the physical and conceptual limits of her materials and the making of images in general.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Portland Phoenix: A Gathering of the Finest Surrealist Photography - Yet Barely Scratching the Surface


Under the Surface: Surrealist Photography, on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, comprises a selection of first-rate photographs, yet its didactic materials and presentation lacks in complexity appropriate to the subject.

Hans Bellmer, German, 1902–1975, Poupée atop Broken Wicker Chair, ca. 1935, gelatin silver print. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

art current: Paper at Åarhus Gallery

Belfast's Åarhus Gallery is celebrating the artistic potential of paper in a current show.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Portland Phoenix: Bryan Graf's Protean Vision

Bryan Graf's show at the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA showcases his experimental use of photography. 

art current: Maine Wood at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship


The biennial juried show, Maine Wood, at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport always showcases a broad range of talents, techniques, and aesthetics. This year, my absolute favorite is Gregg Lipton's spare creation illustrated above.
pictured below: Nick Barboza's bench