Monthly Archives: April 2009

All Art is Contemporay At One Time

By Mark Bessire

Having a biennial in your repertoire of exhibitions is always exciting and scary for museum people. In our case, three outside jurors make the choices and then we have to realize and manifest the work in our space.  Because of all the rules and regulations in museums, it is hard for us to give up control of who chooses the art. For example, on one day we had to let people in the Museum for free, because the installation was so loud it was hard to enjoy your quiet trip to the museum.

On the other hand, outside eyes offer our audiences a fresh look, and the Biennial is about new work and exploration. Having funds for purchase prizes is also a great benefit. One of the most important narratives the PMA tells is the story of role of Maine and Maine artists within the history of American art history.

By purchasing work from the Biennial, we are able to continue to tell the great story about the power of art in the state in Maine and support artists. In terms of collecting, it is also important to remember that all art at one time was contemporary. To build a collection, you must buy one work at a time over time to gain a comprehensive view. Today, museums cannot afford to fill in the collection with Homers and Hartleys. We need to find and purchase art from the next great Maine artist every year.

Image credit: Sean Foley, Menace (detail), 2007. Lent by the artist, courtesy of Whitney Art Works, Portland, Maine.

Biennial Opening Reception

By Sage Lewis
Curatorial Coordinator


On Tuesday night, April 7, 700 people attended the opening reception for the Biennial.
The Purchase Prizes were awarded to three artists:

  • Mary Aro for her three paintings Trailer Home on Polka Valley Road, Microwaves, and End of the Burn
  • Julianna Swaney for her three drawings Wolfgirl, Beebeard, and Central Park, March 6, 1890
  • Sean Foley for his painting Accuser.

The Purchase Prizes are chosen by select members of the Museum’s Collection Committee and will become part of the Museum’s permanent collection.

The William E. and Helen E. Thon Jurors’ Prize of $4,000 was awarded to installation artist Wade Kavanaugh for Falsework.

One of our Purchase Prize winners, Julianna Swaney has been interviewed on the Pine Haven Collective blog. Click here to read about Julianna’s work.


By Sean Foley
2009 Biennial Artist

There’s always a moment before a painting installation where I lose all confidence. I’m terrified, and wonder how I ended up in this situation. This is especially odd since I spend so much time preparing for it. There are sketches, endless errands for supplies, computer renderings, efforts to accurately scale everything, cutting, sanding, painting, even packing the car and traveling becomes a crucial component. I’m involved in constant activity and planning and yet, it’s all illusory busy work—nothing actually exists or is created in this process. It’s all imaginary ideas. Nothing matters until I’m in the space with my paintings, tools, paint, and the blank, desolate wall looming over me.

When I arrived at the PMA I was nervous—as I always am before these large wall-sized painting constellations. I prefer that term to “installation,” but I always have to explain it, so it’s easier to just call it an installation and save my own description and reasoning for lectures and gallery talks.

The installation went well. My good friend Brad Larkin came with me to help with the installation. There are so many little things that occur that having him around is very important; he was a terrific help. When I walked into the gallery I was struck by the gradual increase in height observed as I walked under the transom and into the large Maine Savings Gallery. Immediately this changed my layout plans and I decided to utilize an adjoining wall for the installation to move around a corner. We were able to paint the layout on the wall the first day, and then it took about five coats of red to bring the lines to the right hue. That was tedious and time consuming. Then, I positioned the paintings and refined the wall painting. Arranging and installing the panels was the last thing I did.

I became so engaged in this project that I literally lost track of time and had to leave my car in Maine and fly back to Ohio in order to teach my first week of spring semester courses at Ohio State University, but more importantly, I actually wanted to be present for my four-year-old son’s annual spring art show at his school. I think he’s a sculptor; he made a fabulous “boatplane”!

Being included in this Biennial means so much to me. This work was all conceived and begun in Maine. It’s wonderful to bring it back home. Portland and Maine in general has left its mark on me, it is my natural home—I’m permanently connected here and my Mainer son is a constant reminder of the beauty and integrity of this great state.