‘A Continuum of Place’ reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
AUGUSTA — Kids will always leap from docks. Sailing vessels will always seek safe harbors, and fishermen will always bow their backs and reach overboard to haul their catch from the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
This winter at the State House in Augusta, “Maine: A Continuum of Place” will help remind legislators about Maine’s legacy and what’s at stake as they debate bills that affect the future of Mainers and places Mainers love.
The exhibition, part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Art in the Capitol program, includes 25 paintings by 17 Maine contemporary artists and glass-plate images from the historic postcard collection of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.
Curator Carl Little paired the historic postcard images with contemporary paintings, matching them by theme, motif and content. The exhibition is on view through March 3 at the State House complex. It is free and open to the public during regular State House hours.
With a busy legislative calendar, the paintings and postcard images remind people that as much as times and people change, the continuum of place is consistent. The landscapes that drew the attention of postcard photographers a century ago are the same ones that draw the attention of painters in Maine today, Little said.
The creative heart of the exhibition is the glass-plate photo archive of the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co. of Belfast, now in the collection of the Penobscot Marine Museum. This exhibition is the latest artistic iteration of the collection. It also has been the subject of a recent book, “Maine on Glass,” and film, “The Northeast by Eastern.”
Little had fun pairing old photos with modern paintings. Some came quickly, like Monhegan harbor, a favorite locale of painters and photographers for generations. To match a postcard, Little found a painting he liked by David Vickery, who came to Monhegan as a Carina House artist-in-residence in 1993.
For a postcard of kids leaping from a dock, Little remembered a Philip Frey painting of kids jumping from the dock on Great Cranberry Island. A postcard from Old Orchard Beach conjured a Joel Babb painting, and Tina Ingraham’s paintings of the Portland waterfront were perfect companions for postcard images of boats tied off at city wharfs.
“Some of the combinations turned out beautiful,” Little said. “It was really satisfying to make those matches. What I ended up doing first was going first through photos, just over and over again, looking at them, studying them and thinking about them. And then I went out and tried to match them with artists working in Maine.”
Little, an independent curator, has written many books about Maine art, including “Paintings of Maine,” “Art of the Maine Islands” and “The Art of Monhegan Island,” as well as two volumes of poetry.
The Penobscot Marine Museum originated this exhibition, and Little is pleased that it gets another viewing in the Capitol. Especially while the Legislature is in session, it feels meaningful to offer “reminders of that sense of place and how important it is to maintain it,” Little said. “It does go on, no matter how the fashions change. And who knows what the impact of climate change will be on these places, but for the time being, it’s good to remind ourselves these places need to go on and these people need to go on.”
WHAT: “Maine: A Continuum of Place”
WHERE: State House Capitol Complex, Augusta
WHEN: Exhibition is self-guided and may be viewed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, through March 3
HOW MUCH: Free