The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art opens “Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways” on Friday, an exhibition by artists who have made their own personal journeys across borders and boundaries and built new lives for themselves in new homes.
Co-curators Julie Poitras Santos and Catherine Besteman recruited an accomplished group of artists, Fulbright scholars and MacArthur genius grant winners among them, to show work that addresses their own stories and their own perspectives on migration. Neighbors in Portland, Poitras Santos is an artist and teacher at MECA and Besteman an anthropologist at Colby College.
The premise of the exhibition is that mobility is fundamental to humankind, and the traces of mobility are everywhere. With photographs, paintings, installations and multimedia artworks, the exhibition explores the loss of one home and the creation of a new one, while helping viewers navigate stereotypes and understand how economic and social injustices affect the decisions of people to uproot and move.
They built the show one artist at a time, scouring the internet, visiting other exhibitions and talking to artists across the globe.
“We began building a few names and we kept discovering people. We were searching the airwaves, so to speak, and paying attention to a lot of shows,” Besteman said.
They travelled to New York to see exhibitions and visit artists, one curator texting photos to the other of their discoveries. “We we also were looking for a mix of media, and we thought a lot about how to use the space. Such a beautiful space to put work in, we wanted to be thoughtful about we filled the space and how people move through the space and the kind of work that would be shown with best advantage in that space.”
Added Poitras Santos, “We really looked to artists who address migration from the perspective of materiality – what are the objects, materials and landscapes that tell these stories? We were, in part, also thinking about questions of visibility and invisibility. Migration is happening around us all the time (and) these works make us aware of that by calling our attention to how we imbue objects and spaces with meaning.”
Among the artists are two MECA grads, Ahmed Alsoudani and Edwige Charlot. Other artists are Caroline Bergvall, Jason De Leon with Michael Wells and Lucy Cahill, Eric Gottesman, Mohamad Hafez, Romuald Hazoumè, Ranu Mukherjee, Daniel Quintanilla with United YES and the Yarn Corporation, María Patricia Tinajero and Yu-Wen Wu.
De León is an archaeologist who works with photographer Wells to recover, document and archive objects left behind by migrants in the Sonoran desert. Hafez focuses his work on such instruments of mobility for Syrian refugees as life-rafts and suitcases. Tinajero and Charlot draw on botanical references, soil and water to explore heritage. Quintanilla works with collaborators to make films about immigrant life in Maine.
The Portland Museum of Art opens “Beyond the Pedestal: Isamu Noguchi and the Borders of Sculpture” on Friday. This exhibition of work by the Japanese-American artist includes about 40 sculptures and 10 works on paper. Noguchi, who died in 1988, was a key figure in the development of 20th-century American modernism.
“Beyond the Pedestal” examines how Noguchi pushed the boundaries of sculpture over a 60-year career. The artist believed it was his job “to order and animate space.” The show includes traditional sculpture, landscape architecture, memorials, stage sets, interior designs and furniture. His art leads to questions about our understanding of sculpture and what it can be.
In 1986, Noguchi represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in an exhibition titled “Isamu Noguchi: What is Sculpture?” That question is at the heart of the PMA exhibition. It’s on view through early January, but Portland audiences will be able to see his art for some time. The museum will retain one of his pieces for its sculpture park along High Street. It will be installed in the spring.
Janice Moore followed her own obsession with chairs while conceiving and curating “Some Reliable Truths About Chairs,” opening Friday at the Union of Maine Visual Artists gallery at 516 Congress St. in Portland. “While cataloguing my art inventory some time ago, I was reminded how many paintings of chairs I’ve done over the years, and started focussing on just how many artists have used chairs as subject,” she wrote in an email.
She researched group exhibitions around chairs and had a hard time finding any. This show, on view through Nov. 3, is a combination of a juried exhibition and an invitational. “I like the mix of established and emerging artists,” she wrote. “I reached out to Maine art experts and academics to ask for suggestions and recommendations.”
Robyn Holman, retired art curator for the Atrium Art Gallery at University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston campus, was a guest juror with Moore. They selected work by 29 Maine artists: Mark Barnette, Dave Berrang, Stephanie Berry, Andrew Chulyk, Jonathan Crowe, Matt Demers, Harold Garde, John P. Gardiner, Gregg Harper, Pamela Hetherly, Rabee Kiwan, Lesley MacVane, Natasha Mayers, Allison McKeen, Keri Moskowitz, Jean Noon, Lauren O’Neal, Duane Paluska, Alison Rector, John Ripton, Celeste Roberge, Claire Seidl, Greg Shattenberg, Anne Strout, Barbara Sullivan, Ann Tracy, Dave Wade, Mark Wethli and Moore.
Two veteran artists who are unafraid of change join together for a two-person art show, “Forever Changing,” at the Matolscy Art Center in Norway. Nikki Millonzi and Peter Herley’s exhibition opens Friday and is on view through Oct. 26.
They began with existing artwork that they had either set aside and never finished or that they had deemed unsuccessful. With the perspective of time, they returned to the work to create art for this show.
Herley and Millonzi met through the Western Maine Art Group, which operates the arts center. “She did a series of circle paintings, which caught my attention,” Herley said of Millonzi. “I said to myself then, ‘If I ever get the chance to show with her, that would be incredible.’ And now here we are.”
Millonzi started with a two-dimensional abstract piece and turned it into a 3-D assemblage that suggests a full moon and night sky. Herley started with a dream about a long lost friend. “I looked her up on Facebook, and there she was,” he said. “We hadn’t talked in years. We’re Facebook friends now, and this series deals with that.”
The shapes and colors that he uses in his paintings are based on his thoughts about her, about their long-ago relationship and their new friendship.
In Rockland, Yvette Torres Fine Art gathers artists whose work depicts the injustice and consequences of war, genocide and the resulting plight of refugees. “When Will We Ever Learn” is on view through Oct. 21. A reception for the artists is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Artists include Samuel Gelber, James Graham, Frances Kidder, Cynthia Motian McGuril, Winslow Myers, Elaine Schmitt Urbain, John Urbain and others.
At 3 p.m. Sunday, Myers will do a presentation titled “All Good Art is Protest Art.” Myers volunteered for the California based nonprofit organization Beyond War and wrote a book on its philosophy of war prevention, “Living Beyond War: A Citizens Guide.”
A portion of the proceeds of the sale of artwork will be donated to refugee resettlement programs in Maine.