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Heather Steeves

Heather Steeves tries to do things that are fun -- and only things that are fun. So far that's included stilt walking, roller derby and cross-country road trips in her Saturn.

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Posted: April 30, 2014

4 things to see at May’s First Friday Art Walk in Portland

Written by: Heather Steeves

Portland’s First Friday Art Walk is packed with stuff to see this month. The Maine College of Art will have 84 installations on three floors, showing off the final product of the class of 2014. Elsewhere in town high schoolers will dance, dinosaurs will roam and surely someone will paint a picture of a lighthouse. Here are three of our top Art Walk picks:

1. Making our world seem alien

The top is one of Odell’s pieces. The bottom two are close-ups of the same piece, showing railroad cars and shipping containers.

Most of us use Google’s street view to check out that cute apartment/house on the other side of town that was just listed to make sure it’s not next to the dump/your ex. Jenny Odell uses Google’s satellite images to make art. The San Francisco artist’s show “Long Distance” is at Space Gallery for art walk. Odell cuts out airports, train stations, individual airplanes and assembles them on white backgrounds.

The result is something like the most candid photo possible: we, and our world of things, are captured in an arbitrary moment by a mechanized camera on a satellite or on top of a car, or by a tourist who meant the photo to be of something else,” Odell said on Space’s website.

Out of their context, the places look so clean it’s like looking at a catalogue. The airport looks like the USS Enterprise. The chains of train cars look like beaded bracelets. As the plaque in the exhibit says, Odell takes the most human things and strips away the humanity.

The show is in town through June 6 at 538 Congress St., Portland. More info:

2. From slavery to Maine

On the left is a letter from 9-year-old Guy Howard thanking his dad for giving him a pony and also discussing how he likes his new friend “Wash” Kemp, a former slave who lived at the family’s farm after escaping a southern plantation. Wash is on the right.

This exhibit tells intimate, uplifting stories in a heart breaking period in American history.

According to the Maine Historical Society several hundreds of former slaves settled in Maine after the Civil War. The exhibit follows the story of George Washington “Wash” Kemp — a former slave who ran away from his master’s plantation and enlisted in the Army. His General, Oliver Otis Howard, brought Wash to his farm in Leeds, Maine (near Augusta). One piece in the exhibit is a letter from 9-year-old Guy Howard thanking his dad for sending him a pony for his birthday. In the letter the boy tells Gen. Howard that he and his sister were teaching Wash to read. “I hope he stays with us a long time,” the boy wrote.

The show runs through May 26. The museum is at 489 Congress St. in Portland. More info:

3. See sea smoke

Explorers (left) is oil on canvas by Katherine Bradford. The Black Barnacle (right) is a woodblock on canvas by Christopher Patch. Photos courtesy of the library.

The library will take down its book arts exhibit and replace it with “Sea Smoke.”  Real sea smoke — pretty, but mercifully gone — is the fog you see over the harbor when the ocean steams because it’s so much warmer than the freezing air.

“Water and air live next to one another all the time and on the rare occasion when the temperature cooperates, a ghostly mist appears and often light boosts the beauty to a higher level. This exhibition investigates what occurs in the liminal space between air and water,” the library’s description reads. “The (11) artists explore not only the physical phenomenon but also the feeling and magic of what occurs in that mysterious space. What is there in the visible exhalation of the sea suspended in the air?”

At the library’s Lewis Gallery, 5 Monument Square.

4. Living and working in Portland

This art by Alexander Jones will be on display at “You Can’t Get There From Here” at Zero Station. Photos courtesy of the artist.


Zero Station will have, “You Can’t Get There From Here,” an art show featuring eight artists’ responses to living and working in Portland.
Alexander Jones will be features for his work, which involved painting three historic figures from Maine’s history in watercolors (Lilian Norton, a famous opera singer; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a poet and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Civil War officer and Maine governor). He then scanned those paintings and imposed them on an old map of Portland.

The show will be at Zero Station (222 Anderson St.) through June 27.


 Other noteworthy happenings:
-The Art Department (611 Congress St.) has “Jurassic Park 12” which promises “all things dinosaur and plant related.”
-“The Battle We Didn’t Choose” is a powerful photo exhibit at SALT (561 Congress St.) about a couple’s struggle with breast cancer.
-Dockfore (366 Fore St.) will have a collection of official Kentucky Derby posters on display, through May.
-Zero Station (222 Anderson St.) will have “You Can’t Get There From Here,” a show about working and living in Portland.
-Sanctuary Tattoo (31 Forest Avenue) will have creepy, eerie art in its “Phantasmagoric” show.
-Portland City Hall (389 Congress St.) will have dance an orchestra performances along with art from Portland Public Schools.
-Behind Portland High School a masking tape rendering of a life-sized orca whale will illustrate the parallels between the size of sea park confinement pools and the school courtyard area.

More information:

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