Monhegan Artists Residency Corporation Receives Quimby Foundation Grant

PORTLAND—The Monhegan Artists Residency Corporation (MARC) is the recipient of a $7,500 grant from the Quimby Family Foundation.

“The Quimby Family Foundation and MARC share a mission, to provide accessibility to art opportunities for Maine residents,” said Susan Danly, chair of the MARC board. “For well over a century, Monhegan has inspired great art, yet today an extended stay on the island is beyond the financial reach of most Maine artists,” Danly noted. The five-week residency allows for creative exploration and experimentation “in the crucible of artistic tradition that is Monhegan Island,” she said.

The Quimby Family Foundation grant will provide general operating support to expand MARC’s donor base and increase the level of donations of current supporters. Additional grants from the Underhill and Davis Family foundations have helped support the residency program, now in its 21st year.

Alina Gallo of Portland and Gail Hollenbeck of Bailey Island are the 2011 Monhegan Island artists in residence. Previous residents include Nicole Duennebier, Joe Kievitt, Sarah Knock, Marguerite Robichaux, Carol Sloane, Lynn Travis and David Vickery.

Since its founding in 1989, MARC has hosted 41 Maine artists on Monhegan Island. The program depends upon the financial support of individual donations and foundation grants. For information, visit www.monheganartistsresidency.org.

Four Intriguing Artists at Aucocisco Galleries

by Britta Konau

Christopher Keister Painting

Christopher Keister Painting

Portland’s Aucocisco Galleries currently shows new work by Cassie Jones, Christopher Keister, Sage Lewis, and Mark Wethli – four artists at different points in their careers who are making very exciting art right now. Christopher Keister has abandoned painting the subtly configured, multi-colored circles on paper with which he made such a splash at the biennials of the Portland Museum of Art and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and is now working representationally. I had seen the beginnings of his current body of work when I visited with him during his 2010 Monhegan Artists Residency. Keister is deeply fascinated by occultism, science fiction, psychedelics and drug culture and expresses this preoccupation through his work. The paintings at Aucocisco are small-scale depictions of the faces and busts of ancient statues, a human skull, a cut gem, and the word “Orgone,” an obscure theory concerning a universal life force. The straight, head-on representations against a simple, colored background turn these images into icons of a hermetic philosophy.

While Keister’s paintings are clearly representational, in some cases representations of representations, in spirit they are not as far removed from his earlier abstract work as it may seem. They present concepts and abstractions of hierarchical and mental power. Knowledge and understanding are given and denied at the same time – we know what we see, yet we don’t, leaving us wondering and uneasy, which I suspect the artist relishes evoking. It will be interesting to follow this young talent, who is driven by an earnest curiosity about new territories of the mind and the world beyond ours.

Sage Lewis has contributed a series of watercolors on sheets of propylene mounted on Plexi. Titled “Facet Studies,” central forms shaped like irregular gems float in white space. They are beautifully delicate, like whispers of blue liquid, layered and pooling along the edges. It is fascinating to observe how our mind latches onto any intimation of representation, craving the satisfaction of recognition. We will thus see lunar surfaces and wild seas in some of these images. But we should not be deceived for long and give them the attention they so richly deserve as entirely abstract works of art that engage material possibilities to exquisite effect.

Cassie Jones is represented with recent iterations of her wonderfully inventive, whimsical configurations of painted felt on wooden panels that she started in 2008. In these new works, too, there is a deliberate awkwardness that makes them strangely comforting and unsettling at the same time – seemingly soft and warm, and out-of-control fecund too.

In a group of smaller pieces to which “Come Across” belongs, organic, expanding masses are now more clearly defined against underlying, rectangular core shapes, the supporting panels. As in any formal juxtaposition of organic and abstract forms, Jones’ works could act as metaphors for the Cartesian model of body and mind continually wrestling for control, but that is merely an aside. Curiously, those safe geometric forms are the wildly patterned ones, and the bulging protuberances are the staid monochromes. The shapes of the latter have gained in complexity and decorativeness, lessening their alien character. Two visual languages interact, interrupting each other, speaking on two different planes, literally. Jones’ work cannot decide whether to be paintings or sculptures, and that is a great part of their attraction. Jones has a superbly creative mind and I cannot wait to see where she will be taking this “indecision” next.

Mark Wethli’s oeuvre has been marked by some radical changes, and in my opinion he is getting better and better with every move. Wethli contributed several small paintings on handmade paper to this show, many of which I find extremely exciting. They are the compositional twins of his paintings on re-purposed wood, yet they also mark significant departures. “Stay Tuned” and “Paper Thin” are black-on-white compositions of a meandering vertical line varying in width and shape but always remaining geometrical. Compared to the earlier paintings on wood, these have gained in interest for their subtly layered backgrounds in muted whites and greys of an underlying irregular grid that emerges and disappears. The figure/ground relationship is enriched and complicated and the geometric abstraction gains a handmade quality. To me they are simply beautiful, finely balanced works.

Other pieces are more colorful, even psychedelic, with maze-like forms, or more restrained, collage-like compositions of squares and rectangles. Of those, “Before I Knew You” stands out for its pastel tones and complex composition of uneven rectangles stacked up next to and on top of each other. Balances and relationships are just right, colors repeat and interact perfectly, and energy activates the entire surface – a love poem without much disguise. Wethli’s new work relates to his earlier grids and lines of color as well as the rigorously simplified paintings on panel, but a new playfulness is apparent that also speaks of mastery. Although small in scale, these are some of Wethli’s strongest works so far. All four artists are at their best at Aucocisco, producing engaging and exceptionally stimulating work. I highly recommend visiting the gallery for a very rewarding experience.

“Cassie Jones, Christopher Keister, Sage Lewis, and Mark Wethli” is on view through November 5 at Aucocisco Galleries, 89 Exchange Street, Portland, 775-2222; www.aucocisco.com.

Britta Konau can be reached at curatorbk@gmail.com or curatorbk.blogspot.com.

Quimby Foundation Awards Grant to Monhegan Program

The Monhegan Artists Residency Corp. has been named the recipient of a $7,500 grant from the Quimby Family Foundation.

The five-week residency allows for creative exploration and experimentation “in the crucible of artistic tradition that is Monhegan Island,” said Susan Danly, chairperson of the MARC board.

The Quimby Family Foundation grant will provide general operating support to expand MARC’s donor base and increase the level of donations of current supporters. Additional grants from the Underhill and Davis Family foundations have helped support the residency program, now in its 21st year.

Alina Gallo of Portland and Gail Hollenbeck of Bailey Island are the 2011 Monhegan Island artists in residence.

Since its founding in 1989, MARC has hosted 41 Maine artists on Monhegan Island. The program depends upon the financial support of individual donations and foundation grants. For information, visit monheganartistsresidency.org.

MARC Artist Fellow accepted into National Exhibition

Susan E. Bennett, MARC’s 2003 Artist Fellow, has had one of her stainless steel sculptures, titled Ice Cube Series #3 , juried into an exhibition organized by the National Association of Women Artists, Inc. in New York City. The National Association of Women Artists, Inc. show, the National Open Small Works Exhibition , runs from February 12 to March 9, 2010.

Ice Cube Series #3

"Ice Cube Series #3" Susan E. Bennet, MARC Fellow 2003

Susan lives in Auburn, Maine and maintains a studio in Gorham, Maine. She graduated from USM with a degree in Fine Art and was selected as one of the Monhegan Artists Residency Program Artists Fellows in 2003. For additional information contact NAWA Gallery at: 212-675-1616 or e-mail: sbennett.sculpture@gmail.com

N.A.W.A. Gallery
80 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY.
www.nawanet.org

The Carina House Residency: A Gift of Monhegan

Show your support for MARC by buying The Carina House Residency: A Gift of Monhegan. This handsome, full-color book published by the Monhegan Artists Residency Corporation in 2006, celebrates 34 artists who have been artists-in-residence at Carina House on Monhegan Island from 1898-2006, including some of Maine’s most renown artists like Connie Hayes, Marguerite Robichaux, Terry Hilt, and Jim Dugan. The book features art work and text by all 34 artist fellows in an elegant design consisting of a pair of facing pages for each artist: on the left, a statement describing her or his residency experience on Monhegan with a small image of a work, and on the right, a full-page reproduction. Though each artist had a unique experience on Monhegan, the statements reveal common threads: finding inspiration from the magnificent island environment; time to reflect; and the opportunity to try new techniques and take risks. The artists confirm that the residency was a powerful catalyst for furthering their art and careers.

The cost of the book is $24.00 plus $2.00 for shipping. To order your copy of The Carina House Residency: A Gift of Monhegan , send an email request to board@monheganartistsresidency.org