The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial: A Conversation with Nat May

The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial: A Conversation with Nat May

Excerpts from a Conversation with Nat May about the 2018 PMA Biennial

DM Witman (United States, born 1973), Melt N35 20 E138, 2015, archival gold-toned salted paper photograph from satellite image, 11 1/5 x 21 1/2 inches. © DM Witman

"The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial features artists who have a meaningful connection to Maine, providing an excellent opportunity to regard Maine identity and our self awareness of community. Who should we consider to be a Maine artist? What defines being 'from' a place? When are these inquiries productive and when do they inhibit our experience?" 

Gina Adams (United States, born 1965), Broken Treaty Quilt Passamaquoddy 1974 (back), 2016, hand cut of calico letters and cotton thread on antique quilt, 79 x 70 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Gina Adams

"The idea of a Maine show felt complex enough to me that I preferred a team approach to the Biennial, creating a dialogue made richer by multiple voices. I have been fortunate to work with Theresa Secord, renowned artist, educator, founder of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, and 2015 PMA Biennial artist; Sarah Workneh, Co-Director of the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture; and Mark Bessire, the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art. Each of us contributes our own relationships, perspectives, interests and insights into the community of artists that meet the criteria of this exhibition." 

Sascha Braunig (United States, born 1983), Stays, 2016, oil on linen over panel, 24 x 38 inches. Collection of Mark and Judy Bednar. © Sascha Braunig, courtesy of Foxy Production, New York. Photo by Mark Woods

"To show work in a museum can be an important step for an artist, and to present work to a museum audience can invite a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange in our varied cultural community. With those ideas in mind, and thinking about the history of the PMA, Theresa, Sarah, Mark, and I agreed to use the opportunity of the Biennial to focus on artists who hadn't previously participated in PMA Biennials or other programming at this particular institution." 

John Harlow (United States, born 1989), Garish Sunlight, 2016, digital photograph and scanned handwriting, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © John Harlow

"I'm thrilled with the exhibition's range. From the very intimate photography of John Harlow, a young photographer from central Maine, to the deep and eclectic assembly of paintings and objects by Daniel Minter, a nationally recognized artist from Portland, we've assembled a great group of people, of identities, and of histories represented.

The value of the show ultimately depends on the dialogues it creates: among artworks selected and among the artists and viewers. I have learned something from each of the participating artists and I look forward to sharing their work with you."

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January 3, 2018
Director of Communications

Graeme is a Maine native who, after ten years living in New York and the west coast, decided to come back and set up shop in Portland. In addition to the PMA, he's held positions at GQ, Rogues Gallery, and Might & Main. He lives in Yarmouth, where he spends most of his free time with his daughters, Ramona and Maude.