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2011 Portland Museum of Art Biennial Highlights 47 Contemporary Maine Artists
Heath Paley (United States, 1948), Window Seats, 2010, large format photography, 6 x 18 7/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

PORTLAND, ME- This spring the Portland Museum of Art features 47 artists whose work has been selected for the 2011 Portland Museum of Art Biennial, on view April 7 through June 5, 2011. Last September, jurors Jim Kempner, Owner and Director of Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York; David Row, a painter based in New York and Maine; and Joanna Marsh, the James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., chose 65 works culled from more than 900 applicants. Their work is created in media ranging from painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography to sculpture, installation, and video. The majority of Biennial artists are full-time Maine residents and a number of them are part-time or have spent significant time exhibiting, creating artwork, and studying in Maine. This blend of experiences enriches the state’s artistic community and defines its art scene as one that reflects diverse practices-both established and new. The 2011 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is the seventh exhibition in a series that highlights work by both emerging and established artists associated with Maine.

As always, landscapes both traditional and unconventional are represented through a variety of methods. Tidal Culture, a video by Deborah Wing-Sproul, records the artist as she sits facing the Atlantic Ocean in Greenland and reflects her interest in the passage of time and the impermanence of the land. The ocean is also the subject of Sarah Knock’s painting, Just Water, and Rebecca Rivers’s watercolor, Spring Suite 2. Both artists have filled the picture plane with closely observed ripples and reflections. Turning to the sky, Rachel Katz portrays nebulas and star clusters in her cut paper compositions. Photographs by John G. Kelley, Michael Kahn, and Liv Kristin Robinson cover subjects from Aroostook County to the Maine coast, to the sprawl of New York City. Portraits of figures both real and imagined are conveyed in the photographs of Michael Penney and Siri Sahaj Kaur, in a painting by Suzannah Sinclair, and in harrowing mezzotints by James Groleau.

Others such as Philip Brou, Gavin Laurence Rouille, and William Cox address disconcerting issues of our time drawing on sources such as the daily news, the 9/11 hijacking, murdered victims of hate crimes, and an individual’s struggle with self-harm. For the Trees by Avy Claire is a series of eight-foot drawings on Mylar that hang vertically in groupings. The trees are composed of hand-written text; phrases from the news that Claire transcribed as she listened in her studio. Other works by Kim Bernard, Natasha Bowdoin, Alisha Gould, Lauren O’Neal, Michael Shaughnessy, and August Ventimiglia revel in the repetition of materials to create abstract forms and site-specific arrangements. Several of the installations are large and immersive, requiring the viewer to move through or even walk on top of the art.

Biennials at the Portland Museum of Art have evolved since 1998 and have gained popularity as one of the foremost venues for contemporary art in the state. As a series, the Biennial exhibitions create a visual record of Maine’s evolving contemporary art scene and testify to the profound influence that the landscape, traditions, and people of Maine continue to have on living artists. Maine has nurtured artists for centuries, and its influence reaches far beyond its borders.

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April 8, 2011

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