BCMA unveils long-awaited Maine art exhibit – The Bowdoin Orient

Alex Spear
MINE MAIDEN The Bowdoin Museum of Art’s “At First Light” exhibit chronicles the history of art in the state, displaying over 100 works.

On June 25, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) opened its new exhibition, At First Light: Two Centuries of Maine Artists. The exhibition, curated by BCMA co-directors Anne and Frank Goodyear, features over 100 works by more than 70 different artists.

“The exhibit explores the lands, people, industries and crises that Maine has grappled with,” said Frank Goodyear. “I think one of the main kinds of tension in the exhibit is between the romance of Maine, its extraordinary natural beauty, and the history of resource extraction and how people have used those lands. It gives us moments to stop and think about the diverse people who make up this country.

The exhibit was originally scheduled to coincide with Maine’s bicentennial in 2020, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was pushed back by two years.

“We are thrilled to be able to open [‘At First Light’] this year,” Ann Goodyear said. “I think in many ways the exhibit is enriched by what it meant to go through the pandemic, by the increased attention to the need for social justice…As a result of these recent historical events, the exhibit is able to not only reflect Maine’s past, but I also think, in many ways, a springboard into Maine’s future.”

Beginning in the 19th century, the gallery moves chronologically through Maine history and includes items ranging from the first map of the state of Maine, which was produced in 1820, to modern Wabanaki baskets made by Geo Soctomah Neptune, a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe .

“It was really cool to learn about Maine history and feel more connected to Bowdoin,” said BCMA Curator Intern Ingrid Astley ’24.

In addition to work by artists such as Alex Katz, Ashley Bryan, William Zorak and Andrew Wyeth, “At First Light” also features art by Bowdoin faculty and staff.

“I think the students will be very excited to see [the exhibition]especially the professor [art] room,” said Astley. “You never think about the work your professors do outside of class and their own interests.”

A central theme of the exhibit is the idea of ​​a “Maine artist.” “At First Light” consists of works not only by native Mainers, but also by those who settled in the state later in life. To make the distinction clear, the birthplace of the creators is shown.

“As I think we all know well, Maine is a destination for people from all over the world,” said Frank Goodyear. “We wanted to point out where people came from to find space [in Maine] to develop their artistic practices. It is exciting to see this exhibition [features] people from all over the country, indeed from all over the world, who have come here over the last 200 years.

Similarly, the exhibit explores what themes unite Maine artists and how work created in the Pine Tree State sets it apart from other geographic locations.

“We’re really asking the question, ‘what does it mean to be a Maine artist?'” Frank Goodyear said. “Is there a particular subject matter, style, or attitude that characterizes Maine art-making? We put it up because it’s an interesting way to think about how artists have connected with each other over the past 200 years.

The exhibit is accompanied by a book that features Maine artists and documents their Maine-based homes and studios where they created their works. This book, according to Anne Goodyear, gives visitors a more intimate look at the spaces from which the artists drew inspiration.

“The catalog traces 27 Maine artists from the early 19th century, beginning with Jonathan Fisher to the present day with artists such as Lois Dodd and Richard Tuttle,” Ann Goodyear said. “Unfortunately, some artists who were alive when we undertook the project, including David Driskell, Molly Neptune Parker and Ashley Bryan, are no longer with us, which makes the fact that we were able to document them as part of this project even more -valued by the book.”

Since the opening of the exhibition, the BCMA has received positive feedback from the public.

“We are delighted to have many visitors to this exhibition and are thrilled that the press has also been very responsive to the exhibition,” said Anne Goodyear. “I feel like this show really introduces people to aspects of visual culture that they haven’t been exposed to here in Maine.”

For Goodyear, one question still remains as to why artists are captivated by Maine.

“One of the things that really impressed Frank and me was the extent to which so many artists who came to Maine for a short time ended up staying here,” Anne Goodyear said. “People just seem to want to drink Maine.”

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