Known for its rocky coastline, maritime history and national parks, Maine is also home to some excellent museums, many of which are hosting exhibitions through the coming summer months.
The northeastern most US state, which stretches from the rock-strewn shores of the Gulf of Maine, north and east to the international border with Canada, and west towards New Hampshire, attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. And while the region’s natural beauty is the main draw, it is also dotted with cities teeming with culture. Here are 10 of the best museum exhibitions taking place across Maine this summer.
Antiquity & America: The Ancient Mediterranean in the United States
This exhibition uncovers the intensity and passion with which Mediterranean antiquities have long been collected by Americans, and the prominent role the ancient Mediterranean has played in the history of American cultural and political life. Nearly three centuries of American fascination with the ancient Mediterranean are examined through antiquities collecting and representations of antiquity in American art and culture. The exhibition brings to life the ancient Mediterranean world in much the same way that antiquity was alive in the American imagination in the 18th and 19th centuries, when American popular culture was saturated with references to antiquity.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick / Through 5 February 2023
The Odyssey of James Fitzgerald
This retrospective exhibition celebrates the life and art of James Fitzgerald, centring on his watercolour and oil paintings. It begins with early sketches from his time as a student at the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and continues with paintings from Monterey, California, where he relocated in 1929 and became part of a community of artists and writers known as the Cannery Row circle. The exhibition focuses especially on Fitzgerald’s paintings of Monhegan Island, which he visited several times in the 1930s before making the island his permanent residence.
Monhegan Museum of Art & History / 1 July – 30 September 2022
This is an autobiographical de-construction and re-positioning of personal and collective memories and experiences of the multi-media artist and filmmaker Billy Gerard Frank, which debuted at Venice Biennale 2019, representing the island of Grenada, West Indies. He is also one of the artists in the collective representing Grenada in the Venice Biennale 2022. The exhibition comprises a one-channel film installation set centrally in Grenada, accompanied by multi-media collage canvas, mix-media photographs, and sculpture. It sketches multiple evocative vignettes, forms, and possibilities of narratives that ruminate on themes of exile, migration, colonialism, sexuality.
Moss Galleries, Portland / 8 July – 14 August 2022
John Walker: From Low Tide to High Tide
In the 1990s, John Walker was inspired by Goya’s The Duchess of Alba and its meditation on the disasters of war. Following that, having previous struggled with the medium, landscape suddenly made sense. Still determined not to paint pretty pictures, he concentrated on mud and debris left by outgoing tides and incorporated dirt into his work. This exhibition focusses on two distinct bodies of work, starting with “Low Tide”, which reflects upon loss and inherited trauma. Later, Walker’s mood shifted to water coming in. Lighter and more open, High Tide captures the zigzag reflection of sun on fast moving water, communicating a renewed optimism in painting’s ability to take us to places we’ve not yet been.
Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Ogunquit / 1 August – 31 October 2022
NORTHERN THREADS: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society
Located in the heart of Portland’s arts and cultural district, Maine Historical Society celebrates its 200th anniversary by bringing fashionable historic clothing exhibitions to today’s audience. This stunning exhibition explores how clothing Maine people wore in late-18th to mid-20th centuries reveals social, economic, and environmental histories of the state. Companion mini-exhibits will be featured, including garments worn by the Wadsworth-Longfellow family in the boyhood home of famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Maine Historical Society, Portland / Part I through 30 July; Part II 12 August – December 31 2022
The Industrial Heart: Enterprise – Innovation – Creativity
Focusing on the long and rich history of the textile, shoe, and brick-making industries in Maine and the wider region, this fantastic, thought-provoking exhibition features the core of Museum L-A’s expansive collection – including both the objects and the stories of the people who have worked in those industries down the years. The exhibition serves to engage Maine artists and the broader community to respond to the collection, tying the museum and local area’s history into the present and future.
Museum L-A, Lewiston / Through 22 December 2022
Flying Woman: The Paintings of Katherine Bradford
Katherine Bradford’s figures, who often defy society’s expectations of women, serve as surrogates for a mother, painter, and lesbian coming of age at the turn of the 21st century. The performance of paint on the canvas – her modus operandi – activates her characters who collectively chronicle her life and present universal themes of humanity as they float, swim, dive, and commune in candy-coloured cosmos of ethereal abstraction and terrestrial routines of daily life. Consisting of around 40 paintings, this exhibition explores Bradford’s bathers, swimmers, superheroes, friends, and strangers, highlighting her ongoing commitment to abstraction, figuration, and colour.
Portland Museum of Art / 25 June – 11 September 2022
What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor
Award-winning artist Salley Mavor has spent four decades developing her signature style and working methods, carving out her own niche within the children’s book world and the fibre art community. Her work ranges from three-dimensional sculptural illustrations to satirical political commentary in stop-motion videos. This exhibition is the first retrospective of Salley’s long and prolific career, featuring a large selection of her artwork from early on to the present day. Over 100 pieces, including rarely seen works on loan from private collections, occupy multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor.
Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk / 7 June – 11 September 2022
Ashley Bryan: Beauty in Return
Born in Harlem in 1923, distinguished artist, author, storyteller and teacher Ashley Bryan first came to Maine in 1946 to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Later that summer, he visited Mt. Desert and the offshore Cranberry Islands, where he was captivated by the communal character of life on the islands – later settling there upon retiring in 1988. Bringing together paintings, illustrations, puppets and stained glass, this exhibition is a joyful celebration of his long and illustrious career, and the enduring power of art and the human spirit over adversity.
Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland / Through 31 December 2022
Sarah Cain: hand in hand
Frequently composing at the scale of architecture, the artist Sarah Cain seeks out new territories for abstract painting. With wit, irreverence, and a palette informed by California sunshine, she fearlessly works against the grain of a tradition- and history-bound medium to envision what a painting can be and how it can be encountered. Comprising of a large painting and painted furniture that encompass the full expanse of the gallery floor, this ambitious instillation is both immersive and reorienting, manifesting the synergy of togetherness – a whole greater than the sum of its parts – through diverse but unified imagery.
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville / Through 11 December 2022
By Paul Joseph