Daniel Minter went to Brazil for the first time in 1994 on a National Endowment for the Arts grant, living and working in the country as a visiting artist.
He didn’t know much about Brazil before going there, and its similarities to America surprised him. Brazil is similar in size and diversity to the United States, both countries evolved from colonization and both have the stains of slavery in their histories.
Minter, an artist from Portland, has been back to Brazil many times, including as an exchange through the Maine chapter of the Partners of the Americas. The group maintains a sister-state relationship with Rio Grande do Norte, a Brazilian state in the northeastern part of the country. Minter painted pictures of Brazil, while Brazilian artist Flavio Freitas was in Maine, painting scenes from this state.
The works of the two artists, both born in 1961, are on view through Oct. 29 in a joint show at Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth.
Maine and the Brazilian state have maintained a relationship for 50 years. It began during administration of President John F. Kennedy as part of the Alliance For Progress. It promotes cultural, educational, health and other exchanges.
The artists did their work four years ago, and these paintings have been shown previously. Al Howlett, president of the Maine chapter, said the timing of this exhibition coincides with the recently completed Olympics in Brazil. There seems to be renewed interest in Brazil, he said, so the Partners of the Americas thought it would be timely to mount this show.
It includes a dozen or so paintings in the library’s Lewis Hall.
Minter is a painter, printmaker, sculptor and illustrator. He’s illustrated 10 children’s books and won the Coretta Scott King Book Award for his illustrations of a book called “Ellen’s Broom” about African-American wedding traditions. In 2004 and in 2011, he created Kwanzaa stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.
Minter’s art begins conversations in his communities. He co-founded and helped create the Portland Freedom Trail, which highlights the people, places and events associated with the anti-slavery movement in Portland. He’s also worked to mark the Malaga Island Trail, which honors the residents of an island in Casco Bay who were forcibly removed by the state in 1912.
He was born in Georgia and lived in Washington state, New York and Illinois before coming to Maine several years ago.
The paintings in the Brazil series feel similar in style and authority to his other work. They are bold and colorful, evoke a sense of place and a sense of being and are layered with symbolism and meaning.