Monthly Archives: June 2009

An Exhibition Ritual

By Tom Denenberg
Deputy Director and Chief Curator

I have a ritual that I perform just before an exhibition opens. For years now, I’ve taken all the files pertaining to the show off my desk and out of my office. Xeroxes of paintings, generations of checklists, research notes—­they all go. The material gets organized and placed in the archive of the institution as a permanent record of the project. The ritualized aspect of the move is that I replace them immediately with the files for the next exhibition. Three-ring binders of images and manila files of articles all fit right back on my desk—same place, same order. I do not recall exactly when I started doing this, but it always reminds me that exhibitions are part of a larger history of a museum. With our summer show almost finished and looking great I’ve just pulled the big switch, moving from Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England to Moods of Nature: Jay Connaway and the Landscape of New England. I get a particular kick out of this transition as there is a close relationship between the projects­ indeed Connaway is represented in Call of the Coast for his years painting on Monhegan. 

Switching files is also something of a melancholy task as it means my part of the project is finished. I’ll be giving lectures throughout the summer, but the actual hands on part of researching an exhibition ­in this case with my colleagues Amy Lansing and Susan Danly, organizing the project with Erin Damon and Ellie Vuilleumier, designing the show with Greg Welch and Karin Lundgren, and sweating the details of installation with Sage Lewis and Kris Kenow ­is over and done. In the end, this is probably why I place such great stock in switching files, it reminds me that there is always the next project and it will have its own life and, in the end, look just as elegant as this one.

ARTREK: Summer Camp at the Museum

By Julia Einstein
Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs

The days are getting longer and the time is getting shorter when the Museum will be filled with the young artists at our summer camp program. Boys and girls, from ages 6 to 9, will enjoy getting to know the artists behind the masterpieces that hang on the gallery walls. We will have fun ways of looking at and talking about the art so that it becomes very real. We will try out techniques, discover and explore our own ideas, and let our creativity show.

This summer we’ll see new faces. I’m thrilled to be teaching with Gillian Crisman, a recent graduate of the Art Education program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Gillian will take the ferry everyday from Peak’s Island to the Museum. She and our talented group of high school interns will energize the program. We welcome you all!

Our curriculum is designed around the wonderful summer exhibition Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England, and will “call for” lots of outside painting and exploration into the world of the coastal artist. We’ll travel inside and out, through the Museum’s galleries, art studio, and outside sculpture garden to create as artists did in the early 20th century.

Down and Out the Door

By Sage Lewis, Curatorial Coordinator

It’s hard to believe the Biennial is already over. It seems like so much effort is made to make the show go up, and the time it’s on view just flies by. Sometimes I feel like I manage a traveling circus–though the performance is always right here at the Museum–it’s the art that comes from all over.

This week I will get to see many of the artists again as they arrive to dismantle their work. The physical deinstallation will happen much like the installation, in reverse, of course. The Hermitage by Ethan Hayes-Chute will come apart in large pieces that can be reassembled again somewhere else. Likewise, Wade Kavanaugh’s Falsework bricks will be stacked in their crates once more for potential use at a later date.

And some of the pieces get to stay here forever! Three paintings by Mary Aro, one by Sean Foley, and three by Julianna Swaney will join the permanent collection for perpetuity. This Biennial has been particularly exciting for me because of the risk-taking involved. The jurors took a leap in choosing only 17 artists, with the confidence that the work could stand together and create a cohesive and engaging show. The Museum took several chances in agreeing to have a house built inside the Great Hall, and a few tons of sheetrock bricks piled inside the gallery, among other things. And the artistic risk-taking inherent in all the works chosen is part of what attracted the jurors to them in the first place.

As a format for an exhibition, the Biennial always presents a challenge and an adventure to bring together such disparate works, which at first glance may seem to have nothing to do with each other. The great thing about putting a bunch of art in a room together is that unexpected dialogue that happens between the works. Despite our best efforts to lay out the show in advance, it really can’t be planned ahead of time; it happens in the moment. Works begin to reference each other and identify their place within the context of the show and the space. And at least for me, this phenomenon never fails to surprise and delight. It happened in such a great way with this Biennial in particular. The lesser number of works (only 29) provided “breathing room” for more specific connections to emerge.

For many people though, there are certain things that a biennial should do and be that the format really doesn’t allow for. For example, it is definitely not a survey of all the work being done in the state. Even in the 2007 Biennial, which had 97 works of art tightly hung in the gallery, Great Hall, and Elevator Hall, some people felt that important work was missing. And it was, and always will be because the Biennial is only one exhibition and can only highlight so much during its eight-week run every two years. As Denise Markonish wrote about the jury process, the results are a reflection of “the collective interests of the jurors and trends in artistic practices.” So, in other words, the interest and aesthetic sensibilities of three people who have never met before are brought together to choose from 3,800 anonymous images that eventually become the show. It is bound to produce something different every time. Luckily for us Mainers, there is a whole lot of art worth seeing that is produced in our state every year, and the fact that it can’t be represented in a single show is indeed, a blessing. With that in mind, I would like to toast to all the yet-to-be-made art of the future that will keep our art scene thriving as we wonder what the next Biennial will bring.