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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 19, 2018

Assemblage artist Mae Billington tells new stories about old, forgotten things

Written by: Bob Keyes

“No More Turning Away”
Photos courtesy of Green Lion Gallery

Mae Billington always found it easier to make things than to buy them. Like when her son, then 8, had his heart set on a mini Hogwarts Castle. Billington worked at a Chinese restaurant at the time and asked her boss to order an extra carton of chop sticks so she could make the castle herself.

“I was a single mom,” she said. “It just made more sense to make it instead of spending money to buy one.”

Beginning Friday, Billington shows her talent for transforming everyday and cast-away objects into art when she opens a solo exhibition, “Untold Stories,” of her assemblage sculptures at Green Lion Gallery, 104 Front St., Bath.

“I’ve always had this attraction to things that have untold stories,” said Billington, who lives in Brunswick. “I love flea-market stuff and finding things at Goodwill and second-hand stores. I like broken things, like clocks that don’t work that I can take apart and make new again, and give it a new story.”

“Looking Within”

She repurposes spoons and scissors and uses things like travel alarm-clock cases and suitcases that open up to reveal themselves. She likes the surprise and the sense of discovery that her art brings.

There’s a bit of social consciousness at play in her art, as well. “No More Turning Away” – inspired by the Pink Floyd song “On the Turning Away” – expresses her frustration with the amount of food that restaurants throw away while people are hungry. She represents her wanting with a pair of empty hands and empty spoons.

“My art is also inspired by my passion for the environment,” she said. “By using materials that are either already trash or items that will be trash, I am doing a small part in keeping our earth cleaner and also creating art to express those ideas to others.”

Generally, her work is inspired by science, geometry, spirituality and self-discovery, she said. A recent influence was the late Brunswick artist Mildred Johnson.

David Morgan, who owns the gallery, said he was attracted to Billington’s work by its transformative nature. She uses a variety of materials – broken clocks and discarded books, beach trash and driftwood – to reflect her love and curiosity about the world, as well as her place in it, he said. He described her art as pensive and whimsical.

Billington, 44, said her interest in discarded things began when she was growing up in rural Maine. Playing in the woods and fields around Brunswick, she came across old buildings and trash piles, and imagined the lives of the people who lived there.

She’s always dabbled in art and creativity, and started becoming more serious about making assemblages in 2014. She has shown her work at Cre8tive Earth Gallery in Gardiner, Gallery 11 in Brunswick, the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell and River Arts in Damariscotta, where she had a solo show earlier this winter.

The exhibition in Bath is on view through March 20, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

Mae Billington, “Untold Stories”

WHERE: Green Lion Gallery, 104 Front St., Bath
WHEN: Friday through March 20; reception 5 to 7 p.m. Friday
INFO: greenlionart.com or 207-844-3770

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