Portland Museum of Art Staff Remember Robert Indiana and His Work

Portland Museum of Art Staff Remember Robert Indiana and His Work

The recent news of Robert Indiana's passing struck a chord with museum staff. His body of work is both broad and widely known, and it is loved by many. In light of this, we asked some of our staff members to consider favorites among his work from the PMA collection, and tell us why it means so much to them. 

Ashleigh Hill, Director of Donor Relations and Special Events

My favorite Robert Indiana works in our collection are around his LOVE. The images are grounding in that no matter where my mindset is, looking at them helps bring me back to what's actually important. 

First Love, 1991
aquatint on BFK Rives paper

 

Martha Schnee, Youth Programs Assistant

My favorite work by Indiana at the moment is Mother of Exiles. I've been working with local printmakers Devon Kelley-Yurdin and Elizabeth Jabar to develop a Family Day for the Portland Pride Parade on June 16 that is based on this work, and I’ve loved exploring it more deeply. We chose to celebrate Pride through printmaking, as Indiana was an openly gay artist who approached complicated themes and imagery using words and text in combination. Indiana often expressed frustration at the popularity of his LOVE images; something particularly special about Mother of Exiles is that it feels like nearly an opposite image from LOVE. Instead, Indiana presents us with an emotional depiction of the Statue of Liberty, shedding a tear with her body exposed. He's making a political statement about immigration, belonging, and political symbolism that feels transcendent through its relevance today.

Mother of Exiles, 1986
hard-ground etching and aquatint on Arches Cover paper

Currently on view as part of Under Pressure: Art from the 1980's

 

Maya Owens, Art and Education Assistant

I love the industrial feel, the funny functionality of it being our address (Seven Congress Square), and the look of the weathering steel in Seven—all of this combined with the playful oversized kid’s-block look. It just really captures the vibe of Portland for me, an old, harbor-city mixture of tradition and creativity, and it helps us all not take ourselves too seriously.

Seven, 1983
Weathering Steel

Currently on view in front of the Portland Museum of Art

Chris Kelleher, Maintenance Technician II

I would say his number series, namely our Seven, is my favorite run of his art. Exploring the shapes of numbers and presenting them as works of art in a bold manor pulls me to these works. The meanings he saw in these numbers and the traits we ourselves give them is fascinating to me.

Seven, 1983
Weathering Steel

Currently on view in front of the Portland Museum of Art

Erin Damon, Assistant Registrar

It’s hard to choose just one, but I’m quite taken with Mother of Exiles. The graphic-ness of this piece is sublime but, I think, of more importance is its relevance to the current immigration conversations going on in the United States, and the whole world, really—given that the etching was conceived and printed in 1986. It’s a fairly caustic commentary on the nationalist bent of the U.S., which is particularly relevant in today’s highly charged political and social climate, and also to Portland, a city which has a tremendous population of immigrants and refugees. A former PMA curator, Aprile Gallant, sums it up perfectly in her 1999 essay for the exhibition catalogue Love and the American Dream: The Art of Robert Indiana. She says, “This is the failure of the American Dream, the increasing unwillingness of the American people to embrace those who still believe in America as the promised land.” I don’t think another Indiana artwork could convey this thought better.

Mother of Exiles, 1986
hard-ground etching and aquatint on Arches Cover paper

Currently on view as part of Under Pressure: Art from the 1980's

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May 23, 2018
Communications Assistant

Nathan is a Massachusetts native who, with his wife, Robin, moved to Portland in 2017 without friends or family in Maine. It has turned out to be an excellent decision. Prior to joining the Portland Museum of Art, he worked in building and servicing guitars, and rebuilding grand pianos. He has self-published a book on pocket knives that was illustrated by his wife, and completed a manuscript on musical semantics. Nathan enjoys spending his spare time with Robin, enjoying all that coastal Maine has to offer.