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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: September 18, 2017

Paintings, photos and artifacts pay homage to Maine mills

Written by: Bob Keyes
Images courtesy of the artist

Images courtesy of the artist

As a painter, Janice Moore appreciates the old mill buildings around Maine because of the heroic nature of their edifice: They’re big and beautiful and imposing in an impressive, take-your-breath-away manner.

As a Mainer, she’s interested in the mills because of the stories they tell about the state’s culture and history and the people who worked in them.

Her latest exhibition, “Structures & Patterns: The Remnants of Our Work” at Museum L-A in Lewiston, brings together her aesthetic appreciation of the mills and her interest in the human stories they tell. On view through Oct. 28, “Structures & Patterns” includes oil paintings of Maine mills by Moore, photographs by Mark Marchesi and artifacts from the mills that are part of the Museum L-A collection. Collectively, the paintings, photos and artifacts help people understand the role of the mills in Maine history and how active they remain as renewed and repurposed structures, oftentimes with an industrial mission.

 Several of the former textile mill buildings in Lewiston are represented in the exhibition, along with bean factories, milk plants and paper mills across the state.

Moore, who lives in Freeport, has been painting mill buildings for more than a decade. People often ask her why she does it and what she sees in them.

“I think with an industrial landscape, people stop seeing what’s right in front of them,” she said. “As an artist, it’s my job to notice. It’s my job to say, ‘Don’t forget about this.’ These places are still here.”

The buildings are beautiful, often colorful and always interesting architecturally, she said. An early spark for the exhibition was the conversations she had with friends and acquaintances over the years about people who worked in the mills. When she talked to people about Maine’s industrial past, it seemed that everyone knew someone – a relative, a family friend – who worked in the mills. Over time, she realized the story of the mills is as much about as the people who worked there as the buildings themselves.

 With that in mind, she renders her buildings lovingly. She spends hundreds of hours on her paintings, filling her canvas with color and joy – two qualities not often associated with mill work. She doesn’t dress them up as something they are not, but she treats them with respect and reverence.

“We define ourselves by what we do. We’re identified by our work,” she said. “I decided that I wanted to say something positive about our culture and our work. I wanted to say something beautiful.”

She invited Marchesi of South Portland to show his photographs of mills because she felt they were a complement to her paintings. He approaches his subject in a similar manner as Moore, finding something that highlights the stoic beauty and personality of the mills.

The artifacts in the exhibition include shoe molds, punch cards, spools and slubber cans, which were used for storage in mills.

Incorporating those items in the show makes it easier for viewers to relate to the work that happened inside the mills that are depicted on the walls in oil and ink.

 Moore has scheduled a panel discussion on Oct. 18 to talk about the role of the mills in Maine’s economy going forward. Panelists will include business owners, creative entrepreneurs and representatives of nonprofit organizations in Lewiston who will talk about how mills are being reused and their role in supporting creative enterprise.

Next spring, Moore will curate a Maine industrial landscape exhibition at the Atrium Gallery at the University of Southern Maine-Lewiston.

She has issued a call to any Maine artist to submit work that fits the theme, “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape.” The submission deadline is Oct. 20.

Of her subjects, Janice Moore says, "It's my job to say, 'Don't forget about this.' These places are still here."

Of her subjects, Janice Moore says, “It’s my job to say, ‘Don’t forget about this.’ These places are still here.”

“Structures & Patterns: The Remnants of Our Work”

WHEN: On view through Oct. 28; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Museum L-A, 35 Canal St., Lewiston
ADMISSION: $5 adults, $4 seniors and students, free 6 and younger
RELATED: Panel discussion, “New Patterns: Planning the Future of Our New Work,” 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18.
Maine Historical Society will host a “story collection” session from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 14 for its storytelling portal, “My Maine Stories.” Anyone who wants to tell their story should contact Museum L-A at 333-3881 or email info@museumla.org to schedule a time.

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