January begins a year-long celebration of photography, with more than two dozen museums, galleries, historical societies and cultural organizations mounting exhibitions for the Maine Photo Project.
The statewide initiative explores Maine’s role as a destination for photographers and subject for their artistic musings.
It is the largest and most ambitious collaborative effort among Maine museums and cultural institutions. “It didn’t necessarily start out with this level of ambition, but the interest continued to grow,” project coordinator Jessica Skwire Routhier said.
The Maine Print Project in 2006 and Maine Drawing Project in 2011 were similar in scope, with two dozen museums showing work. This one touches down at deeper community levels, because so many local historical societies and regional museums collect photos.
As the state’s smaller museums learned about the effort, the ranks swelled.
Topics range from the international community of photographers shooting in Maine today, to modernist pioneers like Berenice Abbott and Todd Webb. The project will explore new media and historical methods.
The early shows begin this month in Portland, Augusta and Waterville, with rolling openings throughout the year. The summer will see flurry of activity, building in the fall with the publication of a catalog.
Three shows begin the series:
— The University of Maine-Augusta opens “UMA: 50 Facecs” on Jan. 19. Alumni photographers Jen Burton, Danielle Dewald Pease and Roderick Small show 50 portraits of notable alumni. Five of the portraits will be abstracted, enlarged and made communally. On view in the Danforth Gallery through Feb. 20. The opening reception is 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22.
— The Art Gallery at the University of New England-Portland opens “A Gateless Garden,” with black and white photos by Kerry Michaels paired with quotes from Maine women writers. The quotes are collected and edited by Liza Bakewell, co-founder and director of Maine Women Write. It is on view through April 12. There’s a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 20, and Michaels and Bakewell will discuss the show at 5 p.m. Feb. 26.
— Colby College Museum of Art opens “currents7: Elizabeth Atterbury” on Jan. 27. The museum’s contemporary arts series features the work of the Portland photographer, who will create an installation that incorporates photography and sculpture. Colby is one of the primary sponsors of the project, along with Bates and Bowdoin colleges, as well as the Maine Arts Commission. Atterbury’s installation will remain on view through May 10.
Winter brings several other openings.
— The big one is “The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America,” on view Jan. 30 to April 26 at the Portland Museum of Art. This is a traveling show of the New-York Historical Society, with more than 50 marine paintings and artifacts from the historical society’s collection. “The Coast & the Sea” explores maritime traditions and the role of the ocean as a conduit of trade, ideas and battleground of the U.S. Navy.
This exhibition depicts the ships and seaports that captains called home. It covers a visual history of seafaring America from about 1750 to 1900. And while this show does not portray Maine ships or shipyards, it relates a familiar story, curator Andrew Eschelbacher said. “It speaks to ideas and deals with issues that people in Maine and Maine ports were dealing with. Even though it’s a New York-based show, it’s pertinent to the history of Maine and the modern-day experiences of Maine,” he said.
The exhibition features early-19th-century seascapes, portraits of merchants and notable ships, including the U.S.S. Constitution. There are two paintings by Thomas Birch, an early Marine art specialist. Info: portlandmuseum.org.
— At Bates College in Lewiston, the museum opens “Back and Forth” on Jan. 16. It is named for the process of trading unfinished work between Dawn Clements, who primarily makes drawings and works on paper, and Marc Leuthold, who works primarily clay. Each artist created work, then sent it to the other. Back and forth it went, several times. The result is a visual narrative about process and discovery. On view through March 21. Info: bates.edu/museum/exhibitions.
— In Brunswick, Bowdoin College Museum of Art opens “Rocks, Waves, and Skies: Maine Landscapes, 1900-1950” on Jan. 15. It tells of artists from urban centers who came to Maine a century ago in search of summer subjects. There are many familiar names here: Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Marsden Hartley among others. Info: bowdoin.edu/art-museum
— And in case you haven’t made your way to Rockland yet, you still have time to see “The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World” at Farnsworth Museum. The show has been on display since last June but has been extended through March 8, 2015 due to its popularity. Info: farmsworthmuseum.org.