At a two hour reception this past Friday, The Museum of Art welcomed students and community members back to campus, encouraging them to view all three shows currently exhibited in the museum.
While these shows, Points of View, Maine Collected, and The Painter of Maine, share a focus on the surrounding community, Points of View specifically explores aspects of Maine landscape through four compelling and varying photographic lenses.
The exhibit, which is the curatorial work of the Museum of Art’s Bill Low, features the work of four photographers active in the Maine community: Jay Gould, Gary Green, David Maisel, and Shoshannah White. Low is an active member of the Maine Curators Group, and Points of View and the upcoming exhibit in November are two of the museum’s submissions to the Maine Photo Project.
The photographs in this show are not what one would expect to find on a Maine postcard, but some are so striking that maybe they should be. These artists present the ambiguous areas that fill the wide spaces between well-travelled peaks and groomed college campuses.
Shoshannah White takes us underground with her use of a subterranean scanner and encaustic process to create paintings that reveal the intricate and sometimes delicate-looking world beneath our feet. In a quote from the Art Museum’s website, she additionally reveals that the “beeswax offers a seductive, frosting like material which encapsulates and preserves the photograph at the same time creating a barrier between it and the viewer.” The edges of her hung works are the most mesmerizing: small slivers of observably different tones help distinguish between the layers of her composition. Her work is particularly relevant to the Bates community because she has been using her subterranean scanner to take images of the campus root structures through the growing season.
Education curator Anthony Shostak explained that the museum, alongside the imaging center, looks forward to presenting “a conversation with interested parties” about her creative process during the semester. This is not the only opportunity for students to speak more with the artists behind the show – David Maisel will return to campus as a learning associate for a week and will give a public lecture during the upcoming Back to Bates weekend.
The black and white aerial photographs in Maisel’s series Black Maps portray the simultaneous grandeur and defeat of environmentally-impacted terrain. While many students may not swoon at the prospect of being bombarded with yet another image of our impending environmental doom and ongoing embarrassment as a species, Maisel’s love for the texture of these areas gives the spaces a generously bold touch. Dejected terrain nearly shimmers with the texture of velvety fabric, and detailed close-ups make some spaces look like fields of toothpicks.
In the same way that Maisel uses bold colors to convey the boldness of these spaces, Gary Green’s photographs of abandoned or marginalized areas of land leak grey. The depression of these photographs lies in the fact that they seem too subdued to even be depressing. They are rejected by inactivity, and so unemotional in person that viewing them through the lens is emotional.
The lack of activity and color in Green’s works is counteracted by Jay Gould’s mystical images of the impossible. Cascading clouds and reflections of invisible people ensure that this show reaches out to distant interests across campus. This was, naturally, important to the museum as they worked to develop this exhibit. Bringing together a variety of interests is, after all, at the center of the liberal arts and the museum itself. “We are a campus museum, so how is our exhibition going to address the concerns of an academic institution as opposed to the Portland Museum of Art. They don’t have the same mission that we have,” Shostak said.