Categories: ArtArt Exhibits

Battling illnesses, artist Amy Stacey Curtis moves forward with an exhibition of drawings

“20 Hour Drawing,” from the “27 Hours” series.
Photos courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

Amy Stacey Curtis is feeling better, and this week she opens her first art exhibition since becoming bedridden more than 18 months ago. “Amy Stacey Curtis: Time and Place” opens Saturday at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston and will remain on view through March 23.

Curtis will attend an opening reception at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, which is not something she could have done a year ago. The Maine artist, who lives in Lyman, has seen numerous doctors and specialists in Maine and Boston in search of ways to untangle a neurological web that has left her feeling suicidal, physically limited and unable to speak clearly. She thinks she’s getting some answers. Instead of facing setbacks, lately she’s been clearing hurdles.

“For the first time since this started over 18 months ago, I finally feel like I’m on an upward trajectory even though I don’t have all the answers about what’s happening to me yet,” she wrote in an email. “It’s a very shallow slope up, but I’ll take it.”

“Basement” represents 104,564 objects, each object drawn where it existed the moment she drew it.

She has been diagnosed with stage four Epstein-Barr virus and Lyme Disease, and some members of her care team believe that brain inflammation could be the cause of her feeling suicidal and the source of images repeating in her head urging her to kill herself, as well as the reason for her fatigue, movement disorders, facial palsies and speech impairment. “Now it’s all about trying to figure out the best way to treat at least these things to see what differences can be made – and if I’m lucky, to get to the source. So far, it hasn’t been easy given so many opinions. However, I still feel like I’m going to get through this.”

For “Time and Place,” curator Bill Low will show drawings from two major series. The first batch is from Curtis’s “27 Hours” series, during which she completed a one-hour drawing, then a two-hour drawing through to a 27-hour drawing; the others are from “104,564 Objects,” in which she drew all the objects in her home, including human occupants, larger than one-eighth of an inch.

There is also a new interactive installation called “Clock.”

“I don’t want to say too much about it except that participants will mark minutes, hours – but, really, moments – by perpetuating the movement of an object through space,” she wrote. Curtis will start this movement when she adds the object to the installation at precisely 5 p.m. Saturday. “Like most of my time-based works, I prefer to start them at the very top of hours, even though this time is completely arbitrary. My preciseness is meant to balance the not-exact/not-planned nature of the audience participation that follows.”

“15 hours” is one of 27 drawings from Amy Stacey Curtis’s series 27 hours (charcoal and graphite, 22.5″x22.5″, 140lb archival paper, 2009-2010) done in support of TIME, Curtis’s 6th solo biennial of interactive installation. Curtis completed a 1-hour drawing, a 2-hour drawing, through a drawing that took 27 hours to complete, drawing an hour each day for a total of 378 hours.

Curtis is best known for her interactive installations based on the concepts of order, chaos and repetition, and her drawings represent those interests. She began an 18-year project in 1998, producing nine “solo-biennials” that included a total of 81 installation and new-media works in abandoned Maine mills.

Curtis is grateful for the chance to show her work, for the faith of curator Low and for the support of the Maine art community since she became ill. Curtis tried to cancel this exhibition when she got sick, fearful she would not be able to complete new work. Low encouraged her. “He said, ‘When you can, let me know what you want to do, and we will do it for you.’ It helped tremendously to have this goal, this extraordinary support, and this event to look forward to,” she wrote. “Throughout my illness and current disability, I have been so grateful that I haven’t lost my ability to think, conceptualize ideas, nor to convey them through writing, sketching, and speaking, even when speaking is physically difficult. And, I’ve been able to move the physical aspects of my work forward through art assistants, volunteers, and curators like Bill Low who are helping me continue to make the work I want to make.”

“Amy Stacey Curtis: Time and Place”

WHERE: Bates College Museum of Art, Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St., Lewiston
WHEN: Reception from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, on view through March 23
INFO: bates.edu/museum or (207) 786-6158

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.