Nat May, the independent curator of the 2018 PMA Biennial, has assembled a team of arts professionals to co-curate the exhibition, which opens at the Portland Museum of Art on January 26, 2018. Together with May, this team will share knowledge, discuss themes, and ultimately select the artists that will appear in the PMA’s hallmark exhibition of contemporary art related to Maine.
The team members are:
· Theresa Secord, renowned artist, educator, and founder of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance
· Sarah Workneh, Co-Director of Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture
· Mark Bessire, the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art
The idea of bringing people together to share ideas about the Biennial appealed to May immediately upon agreeing to curate the exhibition. “What makes Maine so unique is the interconnected relationships between individual artists, communities, and organizations in the arts,” says May. “Working with Sarah, Theresa, and Mark leverages those relationships, and their varying insights and approaches to contemporary art creates a really exciting list of artists to consider.”
In addition to May and Bessire, Secord and Workneh also have connections to the PMA beyond the 2018 Biennial. At the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Workneh worked closely with the PMA for the 2016 exhibition Skowhegan at Seventy, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the school’s founding and showcased work produced at the school or in its honor. Secord participated as an artist in the museum’s previous Biennial and has work in the PMA collection. She is also the 2017 speaker at the museum’s annual Bernard Osher Lecture Series; her lecture, “Keeping Tradition Alive: Native American Art Ecology in Maine and the Nation,” takes place on September 12 at USM’s Hannaford Hall.
Working as a team benefits the exhibition, as May and his colleagues make studio visits across the state and beyond, talking with artists who have meaningful relationships with the state. “We’re taking the idea of connection seriously—the definition of ‘meaningful’ should pass the straight-face test,” adds May. “But it’s also important to understand that this exhibition, though regional by nature, should not be defined by regionalism. Our border is permeable, and our world in Maine intricately connected to the world beyond our state lines.”
One focus for the group is artists who have never been represented at the PMA before, including past Biennials, exhibitions, or the museum’s collection. These may be artists who have shown extensively elsewhere or are relatively unknown, but it is important to May to use the Biennial to bring artists and artworks to the PMA for the first time.
This is the 10th Biennial exhibition at the PMA and the second Biennial that will be organized by an independent curator who will spend nearly a year visiting artist studios. 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. You Can’t Get There From Here: The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial was curated by Alison Ferris of Edgecomb, Maine.
The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is made possible by the William E. and Helen E. Thon Endowment Fund.
The PMA is located at Seven Congress Square in downtown Portland.
For more information, visit portlandmuseum.org.