You Can’t Get There From Here

October 8, 2015 to January 3, 2016

You Can’t Get There From Here

The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial

You Can’t Get There From Here: The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial highlights Maine’s artistic legacies in the making. Curated by Alison Ferris, this year’s Biennial provides a comprehensive overview of the many facets of Maine’s contemporary art scene. The exhibition will be on view through January 3, 2016.

Ferris’ career has spanned more than 20 years, and included positions at institutions throughout Maine and the country. She is currently the Curator of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where she has organized critically acclaimed exhibitions, including the kids are all right: an exhibition about family and photography and Toward Textiles.

“We are so honored to work with Alison on this year’s Biennial. She is a curator of uncommon depth of knowledge about contemporary art, whose unique perspective and sensitivity towards the art and artists of Maine have given her incredible insight into the possibilities for this exhibition,” says PMA Chief Curator Jessica May.

As the 2015 PMA Biennial began to take shape, Ferris became captivated by the beloved Maine saying, “you can’t get there from here,” and found inspiration in the parallels between the phrase and the creative process of visual artists. This inspiration influenced a diverse collection of artworks for the Biennial that presents a comprehensive and cohesive narrative about the state and the artists connected to it.

You Can’t Get There From Here includes established Maine artists who have created notable new bodies of work and those who have traveled outside of Maine and are becoming known outside its borders. The Biennial will also represent the first major institutional appearance for several young, emerging artists, showcasing the next wave of Maine artists and affording them the opportunity to make initial introductions to national art audiences.

“With each Biennial, we have the opportunity to highlight the incredible works by artists connected to our state,” says PMA Director Mark Bessire, “and for this year’s Biennial, Ferris has seized that opportunity and taken it to new heights—producing a phenomenal exhibition and experience for our visitors and members.”

You Can’t Get There From Here includes 32 artists with meaningful connections to the state of Maine:

Brett Bigbee, South Portland  (1998, 2003)*
John Bisbee, Brunswick (1998, 2001, 2003)*
Bradley Borthwick, Belgrade
Meghan Brady, Camden
Thomas Brennan, Hinesburg, VT (2001)*
Gideon Bok, Camden
Jeffrey Clancy, Madison, WI
Christine Collins, Roslindale, MA
Jeremy DePrez, Houston, TX
Lois Dodd, New York, NY
Jeremy Frey, Indian Island
Ken Greenleaf, Waldoboro
Susan Hartnett, New York, NY
Anna Hepler, Eastport
Stacy Howe, Portland
Justin Kirchoff, Eliot
Michael Kolster, Brunswick
Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Avondale, PA
George Mason, Nobleboro
Emily Nelligan, Winstead, CT
George Neptune, Bar Harbor
Dennis Pinette, Belfast
Randy Regier, Wichita, KS
Noriko Sakanishi, Portland
Theresa Secord, Waterville
Warren Seelig, Rockland
Owen Smith, Orono
Sarah Sockbeson, Kingfield
Miles Spadone, South Portland
Emilie Stark-Menneg, Brunswick
Richard Van Buren, Perry
John Walker, Brookline, MA

*Artist has appeared in previous Biennials.


The PMA is proud to present The Backstory, an audio series highlighting the untold and lesser known stories of our favorite artists and artworks.

Episode 7: A Photographer's River
2015 PMA Biennial artist Michael Kolster has spent the last 4 years photographing rivers around the country, with specific focus on the Androscoggin, which borders his studio in Brunswick, Maine. In this episode of The Backstory, Michael draws parallels between his photographic process and the inherent nature of rivers, while connecting the history of industry, pollution, and the birth of the Clean Water Act to the Androscoggin. Through these connections, Kolster makes a case for why these rivers—no longer pristine but still beautiful and vital places—need to be protected for future generations.


You Can’t Get There From Here is the ninth Biennial at the Portland Museum of Art. Funded through the generous bequest of William E. Thon, the 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 experience and love of biennials, Thon entrusted the PMA with the means to offer rich contemporary art experiences to its audiences. Though the format of the PMA Biennial has evolved over the past decade, the commitment of the PMA and mission of the Biennial remains steadfast—to put forth a remarkable collection from Maine artists that establishes a cohesive narrative of art and creativity in Maine. This is the first year that the PMA has organized the Biennial exhibition entirely through invitation, based on dozens of studio visits that Ferris conducted over a six-month period.

You Can’t Get There From Here: The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is made possible by the William E. and Helen E. Thon Endowment Fund. Corporate sponsorship is provided by Norton Insurance • Financial Services. Media sponsorship is provided by WCSH 6 and The Portland Phoenix.

You Can’t Get There From Here is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Alison Ferris along with descriptions of each artist’s work from the exhibition. The catalogue will be available in the PMA Store and online this fall.

Image Credits:
1. Sarah Sockbeson (Penobscot, born 1983), Basket, 2011, brown ash, sweetgrass, and antler, 4 x 3 1/2 inches. Hudson Museum, University of Maine, HM8622
2. Brett Bigbee (United States, born 1954), Josie Over Time¸ 2011-15, oil on linen, 13 3/8 x 12 1/8 inches. Private Collection, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York. © Brett Bigbee. Photo credit:  Jay York.
The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is made possible by the William E. and Helen E. Thon Endowment Fund.


Corporate Sponsors
Media Sponsors


Learn More

In the Store