Immersion in abstraction: I went to see the new “Abstraction” exhibit at River Arts in Damariscotta on opening day, Thursday, Oct. 25. I wanted to immerse myself in abstract works of art – nothing figurative, nothing obviously representing something from real life.
I wanted to find out how that experience would make me feel, to see what questions and thoughts would come to mind.
What makes a person choose to express themselves in an abstract fashion? What is being expressed? What scene or object is perhaps being represented in an abstract way? The viewer can only guess at the answers, but the 77 pieces, most of them paintings, in the “Abstraction” show gave me plenty of opportunities for speculation.
For instance, standing before Robert Gibson’s painting “Joyous Reunion,” featuring a number of colorful, ambiguous shapes made me ask myself: “Are those foxes? Are they balloons? Are they flowers? If they are foxes, are they colorful because they are joyous?”
Rockland photographer Paul Karlsson’s “Downeast Viper” appears to picture a cracked rock formation. Why did he give it that title? I do not know.
Similarly, David Estey’s extra large painting “Fishers” appears to have no fishers in it, if one is looking for the dark-brown mammal. The striking piece challenges the viewer to explore all of its elements, both in an attempt to make sense of the title and, more importantly, to try to identify what one is seeing. The closest I came to discovering a “fisher” was deciding that some (blue) elements of the piece suggested water and some suggested fishing line. Other parts of the painting conjured up a bird and even a football or hockey helmet and shoulder pads. But a large part of the fun of studying a piece like this is that one comes away with no hard and fast answers, only the joy of having perused and imagined.
If I could name one piece Best in Show, it would be Waldoboro artist Valerie Greene’s large acrylic painting “hashtagmetoo.” The title of the piece is an obvious reference to the #MeToo movement, an international movement against sexual assault and harassment. The way Greene handles the subject matter in the abstract piece is subtle, but very powerful.
The viewer is pulled into the dark-green interior of the painting, an abyss of sorts surrounded by a swirl of oranges and yellows prominently in the foreground, the product of Greene’s talented hand. Splatters of orange and yellow obscure the abyss slightly.
In my notes, I wrote that the painting “says more about the subject than words could … Maybe there are no right words.” A person could contain a dark, wordless abyss such as the one in Greene’s painting in response to a traumatic event, I thought, and yet have more sunny, less troubling emotions in the forefront of their being.
Simply put, Greene’s piece is masterful.
The “Abstraction” show is thought- and emotion-provoking and definitely worth spending some time at.
“Abstraction” runs through Wednesday, Nov. 14. River Arts is located at 241 Route 1, Damariscotta, and is online at riverartsme.org.
Go to lcnme.com to see a slideshow showcasing a number of pieces in the show not pictured in the print version of this column.
Make your own Christmas cards: South Bristol artist Joy Vaughan is offering a workshop, with a number of dates available, on silkscreen card-making.
“This is just plain fun,” says Vaughan of the card-making process. “I make it easy, fun, and enjoyable. You’ll meet a few wonderful people and you’ll go home with a pile of greeting cards to send to your many appreciative friends.”
Card-making sessions run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Vaughan’s studio on the following dates: Saturday, Nov. 3; Sunday, Nov. 4; Wednesday, Nov. 7; Friday, Nov. 9; Saturday, Nov. 10; Tuesday, Nov. 13; Friday, Nov. 16; and Sunday, Nov. 18. Each session costs $90, which includes all silkscreening materials and up to 30 cards and envelopes. Participants should bring a lunch.
Call Vaughan at 644-8267 or email her at email@example.com for more details.
Very good things at Lincoln Theater: There are some particularly interesting offerings coming up at Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta. In addition to the 1940 classic film “The Grapes of Wrath” on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2 (watch the very entertaining original trailer at bit.ly/2D2Hent), the newest Munk Debate will be broadcast live from Toronto at the theater on Nov. 2 starting at 6:45 p.m. The title of this particular debate is “The Rise of Populism” and it will feature former executive chairman of Breitbart News Stephen K. Bannon versus David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic. The debate promises to be spirited and thought-provoking, and, rather amazingly, is free to attend, thanks to the generosity of the Munk Debates. Learn more about the Munk Debates at munkdebates.com.
Running Nov. 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9, will be “Free Solo,” a documentary film about 33-year-old free-soloist rock climber Alex Honnold, the only person to have free-soloed – climbed without protective equipment – El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park. In the film, Honnold refers to 3,200-foot El Cap as “the most impressive wall on Earth … the center of the rock-climbing universe.” Watch the trailer at bit.ly/2Jd1inp. Read a recent New York Times review of the film at nyti.ms/2O88dzg.
Access Lincoln Theater’s online calendar at lcct.org.
(Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me a letter in care of The Lincoln County News, P.O. Box 36, Damariscotta, ME 04543. I love to hear from readers.)