The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial

January 26, 2018 to June 3, 2018

The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial

Stephen Benenson (United States, born 1979), "Exhale," 2017, acrylic and oil on board, 72 x 48 inches. © Stephen Beneson. Photo by Luc Demers

The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial features more than 60 works by 25 participating artists, highlighting the diverse perspectives and interests of artists connected to Maine and making a powerful statement about art's impact in this historical moment.

"...this exhibition, though regional by nature, should not be defined by regionalism. Our border is permeable, and our world in Maine is intricately connected to the world beyond our state lines."
- Nat May, guest curator

In agreeing to curate the 2018 PMA Biennial, Nat May, the former executive director of Portland's groundbreaking alternative arts venue SPACE Gallery, wanted to ensure the exhibition raised awareness of the cultural moment in Maine and America, and focus on artists participating in those conversations. To that end, May reached out to several colleagues intricately involved in various circles of Maine's contemporary art scene. These included Theresa Secord, renowned artist, educator, and founder of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, Sarah Workneh, Co-Director of Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and Mark Bessire, the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art.

Working as a team proved beneficial for the exhibition, as May and his colleagues made studio visits across the state and beyond, talking with artists who have meaningful relationships with Maine. “We’re taking the idea of connection seriously," adds May, "the definition of ‘meaningful’ should pass the straight-face test. But it’s also important to understand that this exhibition, though regional by nature, should not be defined by regionalism. Our border is permeable, and our world in Maine intricately connected to the world beyond our state lines.”

Image: DM Witman (United States, born 1973), Melt N45 W68-1, 2015, unfixed salted paper photograph from satellite image, 11 1/5 x 21 1/2 inches. © DM Witman

One focus for the group is artists who have never been represented at the PMA before, including past Biennials, exhibitions, or in the museum's collection. These may be artists who have shown extensively elsewhere or who are relatively unknown, but it is important to May to use the Biennial to bring artists and artworks to the PMA for the first time.

"The works are exceptional, thought-provoking, challenging, and inspiring," states May, "but I want to get away from the idea that the Biennial should be a 'best of Maine' show. The many excellent works that deserve to be seen exceed the exhibition's capacity, and our challenge was to select which works and artists will benefit from the attention, consideration, and thought from the PMA audience and the visitors to the exhibition."

Image: Angela Dufresne (United States, born 1969), Dean Moss, 2017, oil on canvas, 59 1/2 x 78 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Angela Dufresne. Photo by Luc Demers

The final checklist for the exhibition includes a wide variety of works by the participating artists, including textiles, sculptures, video installations, photography, painting, and more.

"I'm very happy with the exhibition's range," adds May. "We've assembled a great group of people, of identities, and of histories to be represented. The value of the show is in the dialogues it will create, among the 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."

Funded in part through the generous bequest of William E. Thon, the 2018 PMA Biennial is intended to highlight artists with meaningful connections to Maine and enrich the cultural lives of the people of the state.

Inspired by his own love of biennials, Thon entrusted the PMA with the means to offer rich contemporary art experiences to its audiences. Though the format of the Biennial has evolved over the past decade, the commitment of the PMA and mission of the Biennial remain steadfast—to share a remarkable collection from Maine artists that establishes a cohesive narrative of art and creativity in Maine.

Corporate Sponsor: The Bear Bookshop, Marlboro, VT

This exhibition is part of Art for All.

Art for All is an initiative that supports the PMA's dedication to being an open, accessible, inclusive, and welcoming museum for all, through exhibitions and programs that reflect our community and create experiences with art that strengthen our bonds and bring us together.

Individual Support:

Anonymous (2)
Sheri and Joe Boulos
Shannon C. Gordon
Jocelyn and Peter Handy
Alison and Horace Hildreth (name format not yet confirmed-pledge only)
John and Hilary Isacke
Marian Hoyt Morgan and Christopher Hawley Corbett
Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Spencer
Stewart and Elizabeth Strawbridge
Amy Woodhouse and Tobey Scott

The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is made possible by the William E. and Helen E. Thon Endowment Fund with additional support by the PMA Contemporaries.


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