December is a festive time in Portland. We’ve got great lights, great street scenes and solid community spirit.
And we’ve also got great art.
Here are five gallery exhibitions worth checking out — on First Friday or any other day.
“Daunis at Daunis,” Daunis Fine Jewelry, 616 Congress St., Portland.
Laurel Daunis-Allen has Maine roots, and her exhibition of drawings and paintings at Daunis Fine Jewelry in Portland marks the first time she has shown here.
Daunis-Allen, who lives in New Jersey, is a cousin of jewelry designer and shop proprietor Patricia Daunis. Their parents were first cousins and grew up together in Auburn.
Daunis-Allen’s coastal ink paintings have a gestural quality that suggests an Asian influence in her work. The paintings are paired with Daunis jewelry designs that share similar forms, color and inspiration.
As she spends more time in Maine, Daunis-Allen said she feels her Maine roots emerge in her work.
“My father was from Auburn, and I spent most summers coming up with the family. A lot of my inspiration as a young artist started there,” she said. “I have always been drawn to the sight of where the water meets those beautiful, sometimes very large stones, whether on a lake or the sea. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a lot of different subject matter, but over the past few years, as my husband and I have been spending more time up there, I find myself being drawn back to those rocks.”
Daunis-Allen said she had an artist friend of hers remind her that there are rocks in New Jersey that she could paint. But, to her, they’re not the same.
“There is something I cannot explain that draws me in an almost obsessive way to the Maine rocks,” she said.
Daunis-Allen has shown her work at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton City Museum and galleries in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. She will attend the First Friday reception from 5 to 8 p.m., and the show is on view through December.
“Mythic/Poet,” Ricardo Osmondo Francis, Zero Station, 222 Anderson St.
These mixed-media paintings, on view through Dec. 16, feel like portraits of our time and are thick with symbolism, political turmoil and lingering questions about sexual identity. They feel abstract and realistic at the same time, as if a blur of imagery and jumbled identities.
In addition to making his own work, Francis is the gallery director at LeonidesArts NY, a nonprofit arts organization in New York that presents contemporary art across cultural lifestyles and theme. Before that, he was curator at Hudson Pride Connections in Jersey City, New Jersey, and the Brooklyn Community Pride Center.
“Anquish: The Grave Misgivings of Remembrance,” Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA, 522 Congress St.
This quiet exhibition in the heart of downtown Portland has created quite a bit of discussion because of its difficult nature. As the title implies, the show is about grief, remorse and isolation, and it asks viewers to confront fear, loss, sorrow and regret. It’s curated by Cynthia Nourse Thompson, an associate professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and features work from a variety of artists, including Janine Antoni, Louise Bourgeois and Jenny Holzer. It is on view through Jan. 14 with a First Friday reception from 5 to 8 p.m.
“Evangeline: A Modern Tale of Acadia” by Mark Marchesi, PhoPa Gallery, 132 Washington Ave.
Portland photographer Mark Marchesi has spent parts of the last four years photographing modern day Nova Scotia, inspired by Longfellow’s love story of “Evangeline” about the plight of the Acadians. His is a stark and honest look at the landscape, its emptiness heightened by the massive tides that make Nova Scotia feel even more remote. It’s on view through Jan. 14. In addition to First Friday, the gallery will host a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and an artist talk at 3 p,m. Jan. 8.
“With A Bang,” 3fish Gallery, 377 Cumberland Ave.
3fish Gallery has been open since 1997 and is closing with “With a Bang,” a group show that features work from past exhibitors. Gallery owners Ron and Christine Spinella are closing that gallery after nearly 20 years. There’s a First Friday reception from 5 to 8 p.m., and the gallery closes for good — for now anyway — at 4 p.m. Saturday.