The University of Maine Museum of Art, located at 40 Harlow Street in downtown Bangor, opens three new exhibitions in May 2019. UMMA is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and brings modern and contemporary art to the region, presenting approximately 12 original exhibitions each year. UMMA’s summer shows open to the public on May 17 and run through August 31, 2019. Admission to the Museum of Art is free in 2019 thanks to the generosity of Deighan Wealth Advisors.
WHEN THERE WAS ANOTHER ME: HAROLD GARDE
When There Was Another Me, a large-scale exhibition featuring an assortment of forceful and stimulating works by Harold Garde. The artist, who splits his time between Florida and Maine, has exhibited widely throughout the United States. Garde, now in his 96th year, continues to produce works of great energy, intensity, and relevance.
While Garde has created a vast quantity of paintings and many unique series throughout his life’s work—from chairs to kimonos to solely abstract compositions—UMMA’s exhibition offers an extensive and focused look at recurrent subjects from throughout his career: figure and portraits. Within these selected works one sees the authority of Garde’s mark making and his spirited use of color. The figurative pieces chosen for this exhibition are emotionally complex, challenging, and unharnessed. At times they are humorous, confounding, and even unnerving. Above all, they convey conflicting states of mind as well as the complex nature of humanity; topics that are particularly relevant in contemporary art and society today.
Although the artist’s early exposure to Abstract Expressionism continues to infuse his paintings today, his ongoing exploration of portraiture and the figure conveys another significant facet of his enduring creative practice. The 35 works showcased at UMMA draw connections to early Expressionists, particularly German artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Both artists were among the founders in 1905 of the formidable artist group Die Brücke (The Bridge). This group sought to create a new form of artistic expression in which color and subject matter were liberated from all traditional approaches. This commanding selection of expressionistic works celebrates Harold Garde’s passionate and unique point of view as well as his prolific and rigorous studio practice.
OUR HANDS ARE FULL OF COLOR: JULIE BECK
The subject of Julie Beck’s oil paintings are primarily animals, still life, and the figure. Beck, who lives and works in Boston, creates works that are rendered in striking detail. With the eye of a discerning collector, the artist searches antique stores for unique objects to arrange within her paintings. Beck adds “I use objects that are loaded with personal meaning—artifacts from my own history or found objects that evoked a particular memory or feeling.”
Beck often combines unexpected elements in her portraits. While her sitters are rendered in a realist manner, she employs a more whimsical approach and expressive treatment in the background. For example, in Optical Delusion, the young woman’s facial features and clothing are carefully modeled, while the background is an array of expressive colored brushstrokes that seem to move behind the figure.
SYMPHONY OF PASSION: ALISON WELD
Symphony of Passion offers a glimpse at over 40 years of studio practice by New York-based artist Alison Weld. The exhibition incorporates paintings from several of Weld’s unique series. Prominently featured are large-scale diptychs that represent an important series of works from 1994-2003 titled Home Economics. Boldly painted abstract panels are juxtaposed with mass-produced, patterned upholstery fabric. For instance, in the left panel of Psyche’s Soul,1997, Weld’s brushstrokes have yielded a turbulent tangle of textured, warm-toned marks as if she’s rendered the ferocious energy of a firestorm. In contrast, the composition’s right panel consists of appropriated designer fabric that depicts various butterflies and moth species. Instead of being quiet, saccharine depictions of winged creatures, the complex, frenzied pattern of layered insects balances beautifully with the raw energy of the abutted oil on canvas. While the surface texture and imagery on the two panels are vastly different, the diptych is unified through the warmth of Weld’s palette on the left and the orange, earthy hues of the butterfly’s wings on the right.
With roots in Abstract Expressionism, Weld’s Tonal Variation series is characterized by a richness of mark-marking and the gradual buildup of lush textural surfaces. The artist refers to these works as “assemblages” in which she brings together newer paintings and older works to investigate new relationships—while also re-contextualizing the past. Metabolic Histories, 2015, is a stellar example of the Tonal Variation series in that it apposes five separate energetic canvases. This composition will be dismantled during the exhibition and, at various intervals, three of the canvases will be paired with their original panels to form distinct new compositions. Metabolic Histories is a vehicle for viewers to witness the sort of experimentation that is most commonly seen within the confines of an artist’s studio.