Sunday, December 28, 2014
This, Our Curious WorldTonee 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
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
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
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.
below: Fertile Myrtle
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
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
Monday, October 13, 2014
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
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.
Susan Maasch Fine Art in Portland shows two widely different artists at crossroads in their practice: photographer Jack Montgomery and painter Jessica Gandolf.
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
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.
above - gaston, 2014, wood, paint, rubber
below - untitled, 2014, steel, wood, rubber, lead, aluminum
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A rare opportunity in Maine to see quilts made by African American women in the Alabama town of Gee's Bend. http://www.freepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=50&SubSectionID=72&ArticleID=34137&TM=57306.36
top: Lucy Mingo
bottom: Stella Mae Pettway
Fresco artist Barbara Sullivan is taking her medium of choice in new and exciting directions.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has mounted Richard Tuttle's first print retrospective.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
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
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
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
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
Painting her photographs with white or black encaustic, Shoshannah White adds mystery and a sense of timelessness to her images.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
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
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
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.
Belfast's Åarhus Gallery is celebrating the artistic potential of paper in a current show.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Bryan Graf's show at the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA showcases his experimental use of photography.
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