The year in Portland's art scene

By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  December 22, 2010

BIG PRINTS Charlie Schreiber drives a steamroller over a printing block on Oak Street, as part of Pickwick Independent Press’s contribution to Block Party.

For lovers of spectacle, 2010 offered a lot of feasts. A fine collection of installations and site-specific works graced the greater city in 2010, challenging our perceptions and changing our surroundings. Installation work is hard to categorize and harder still to interpret consistently, and if they're in vogue, it's a sign that local artists are broadening scope and courage along with their horizons.

The tone was set for the install-heavy year back in January, when "Dual Site: A Psychogeographic Dinner Theater," opened at WHITNEY ART WORKS. Collecting the talents of actors, chefs, dramaturgs, tintype artists, and designers, "Dual Site" contrasted the dismal re-creations of international oppression with a romantic, intimate fete. A lighter spectacle was September's Block Party. Amid countless other happenings, PICKWICK INDEPENDENT PRESS parlayed a $1725 Kickstarter grant into an interactive printmaking bazaar, repurposing a block of Oak Street for a large-scale press, with a steamroller producing four-by-four-foot woodblock prints before a wide-eyed audience.

And it didn't stop there. AMY STACEY CURTIS's participatory "Time" installation, the sixth in an ambitious biennial sequence exploring dimensional properties, brought scores of people to Biddeford's North Dam Mill. Her nine dark closets, each assigned a timer and duration to contrast the individual perception of passing minutes against real time, wins the award for the art piece most closely resembling the experience of a Samuel Beckett novel. At the COLEMAN BURKE GALLERY in Brunswick, Jacob Galle's "(Timbered) Pitch" installation hung young pine trees into rows, creating a sensation of Maine outdoor life that was both serene and unnerving.

Other notable installations included international artist JENNY HOLZER's provocative projections on the Portland Museum of Art building and LORI WAXMAN's touring art-criticism performance, the latter of which blurred the lines of artistic privacy and process while dissecting works from 30 local artists and projecting them onto a backdrop at SPACE GALLERY. Perhaps the biggest of them all, however, came from the hands of Anna Hepler, who created a truly unforgettable structure in the lobby of the PMA from salvaged plastic and tarp that hung through the summer and well into October.

Not all installations were well-received, however. It was a dour year for municipal art. The Portland community finally sounded the death knell for "TRACING THE FORE," Shauna Gillies-Smith's loudly derided Fore Street piece, and just this month, re-opened submissions for the BAYSIDE TRAIL BENCHES due to lack of enthusiasm over its 17 submitted designs.

Institutional galleries continued a classic theme: honoring career work of Maine artists past and present. The PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART showcased a well-rounded retrospective of Winslow Homer's paintings and magazine drawings, the BOWDOIN MUSEUM OF ART featured "Maine as Muse," a group exhibition featuring Homer and pop artist (and part-time resident) Alex Katz, and Rockport's CENTER FOR MAINE CONTEMPORARY ART triumphed over last year's budgetary collapse to reopen in May, resulting in the months-long "Photographing Maine: Ten Years Later" exhibition (as well as a gorgeous Dozier Bell show).

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Bayside Trail, Lori Waxman, Tracing the Fore,  More more >
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