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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: January 14, 2016

7 winter art shows on Maine campuses worth seeing

Written by: Bob Keyes

Dan Dowd has a history with tires. His father drove a truck for a living, and Dowd’s childhood memories are filled with bicycles and inner tubes.

“You remember those rubber inner tubes?” he asked. “When we were kids, we used to patch our inner tubes. You’d get a nail in your tire, and you’d take off the tube and patch it three or four times if you had to. Now they just thrown them out and replace them.”

Dowd, who lives in Phippsburg, exhibits assemblages of inner tubes, old clothes and found objects in “Thick Skinned,” on view through April 30 at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor. The winter fine-art exhibition season is highlighted by campus exhibitions across Maine.

Dowd’s wall-hung assemblages incorporate rusted metal, rubber and wood. He layers woolen blankets, winter jackets and knit sweaters with cracked inner tubes caked by a patina from rusted rims and worn stem valves. The work references Joseph Beuys, Claes Oldenburg, Lee Bontecou and Robert Rauschenberg, said museum Director George Kinghorn.

“I’m interested in the histories that materials acquire over time – worn-out fabric, the rust the rubber acquires from resting against steel rim and cracking,” Dowd said.

“Thick Skinned” began with truck tires that Dowd collected from the Phippsburg transfer station. He picked them up without a plan, knowing he’d use them. At the same time, he put aside clothes in his closet that he didn’t wear but wasn’t ready to discard.

He considered them as material for art, combining them with tire tubes and other materials. He favors tubes with patches and clothes that have been mended because of their histories and the memories they inspire. They remind him of is truck-driving dad and his youth and are loaded with cultural and familial resonance.

“I have one tire tube with 19 patches. I have yet to decide what to do with it,” he said. “I love the idea of reuse. I love that people used to have these tubes and realized they were valuable and didn’t throw them away.”

He’s doing the same thing with his clothes, finding a way to extend their usefulness and purpose.

UMaine is showing 18 assemblages. Some are 6- to 7-inches tall. Others are nearly as tall as a door.

“Thick Skinned” opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday that costs $15 for nonmembers; regular museum admission is free; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Also on view, “Studiolo” by Richard Whitten and “Three-Sided Dream” by Jon Davis. UMaine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St., Bangor; 561-3350

Here are six other winter shows on Maine campuses worth seeing:

“Tinderbox,” ICA at MECA, Portland, on view through March 5.
“Tinderbox” looks at the role of artists and communities in establishing dialogue during times of social and political dysfunction. The group exhibition focuses on areas of tension in which art and artists can become a catalyst for change, reason and resolution. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, First Fridays until 8 p.m. Free. 699-5025 or

“Pay Attention! It’s Independence Day,” Natasha Mayers, USM Area Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, Portland, opens Monday.
Whitefield resident Natasha Mayers has documented her town’s Fourth of July parade for 30 years, collecting props and costumes and making photos and videos of fire trucks, floats and imaginative displays about global warming, clear cutting and tax cuts for the wealthy in a small-town expression of patriotism. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday. 780-5008 or

Robert Adams, “Turning Back,” Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, opens Feb. 2.
“The West is gone,” says photographer Robert Adams, who used the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition to celebrate “the glory of the natural world and the tragic nature of human beings.” His photographs demonstrate irresponsible land stewardship and greed in the forests that Adams found along the way east from the Oregon coast. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; free. 859-5600 or

“Portraits of the Artists,” Art Gallery at UNE, Portland, closes Feb. 7.
Perhaps the most engrossing exhibition of the winter in Portland will close in three weeks. If you haven’t seen it and you care about photographic portraiture, “Portraits of the Artists” is a must-see. It features celebrity subjects, celebrity photographers and wide collection of Maine artists on both sides of the lens. 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, and until 7 on Thursday. Free. 221-4499 or

“Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa,” Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, closes March 6.
“Earth Matters” explores how African artists have used their work over two centuries to consider their relationship with the land. The exhibition features 50 works of art created by artists from 17 African nations, from the early 19th century to today. It includes sculptural and two-dimensional pieces by recognized and emerging artists. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and until 8:30 p.m. Thursday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 725-3275 or

“The Art of Occupy: The Occuprint Portfolio,” Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, closes March 26.
Prints and posters have disseminated political views, protests and messages since the invention of printing, and 20th century technology made it possible to mass produce them. Occuprint emerged with the Occupy Movement in 2011. As Occupy Wall Street spread to the financial districts around the world, it motivated people to express their anger using posters, signs and banners. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Free. 786-6158 or

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