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Up, up, and away...
And then summer art comes back home again
BY MAGGIE KNOWLES


Itís not the sun. Itís not the al fresco beers on Wharf Street. Itís not even the matching-outfits-complete-with-fanny-pack tourists who flock to DiMilloís for a real lobster dinner. The only true sign that summer is fully upon us is the appearance of kites, as if by hallucination, along Back Cove ó their dips, dives, and swirls of merriment announcing that, at last, it is okay to wear white. And the kites ó sont ici! This also means the rockiní summer í05 art scene is ready to trot arm in arm with the lime-knickered sun babies.

Surprisingly (and yet somehow not) many galleries this season feature artists that paint Maine. Why this is surprising is that many tried and true galleries stand clear of Maine landscapes for fear they will be grouped with the sell-out places that cater to "Fog Rolling Over Skiff with Lighthouse" (sic) crap. Unsurprising because, duh, Maine is pretty. Shown also this summer are photographs, animal woodcuts, furniture, and other paintings that we will nod to, but first, back to kites.

When I was seven (or 17, it all blurs together) I had the quintessential kite: silver unicorn complete with a cathedral-length rainbow tail. I never flew said kite because I didnít want to get it dirty. It sat like a mystical oracle in the basement until the cat peed on it. The only connection here is that my tale of woe provides a segue (so tough in these summer round-up pieces) to running with scissors, where they had the fun idea for a collective kite show, "Skyward Project." The studioís artists, such as Melinda Titus, were invited to create a kite to be part of what will eventually be a traveling exhibit. Titusís kite reminds me of the quick switch from spring to summer; the green, yellow, and brown fibers mimic the transitioning landscape (show runs in July, call (207) 780-6252).

A definite donít-miss in the landscape world is Juneís "Pura Vida," a Costa Rican residency at the Holly Ready Studio/Gallery. Never been to Costa Rica? Youíll be booking flights after viewing the gorgeous paintings of Ready and Daniel Hauben, accompanied by sculpture from Scott Stoll. The tropical works were born from a month-long stay at the Julia and David White Artist Colony in Ciudad Colon. I want to live in these paintings, especially Readyís "Valley View," where the elegant light flirts under trees that crest like the perfect wave (call (207) 632-1027).

Two other artists that are inspired by coastal living are Martha Burkert and Rockwell Kent. Though quite opposite in style, both paintersí works exude the love they feel for summers in Maine. Burkertís newest works, such as "Green Trim Bustinís Island," with a storybook aura and blooming garden colors, are on view at the Clown in Belfast from July 21 through August 17 (check www.the-clown.com for all three Clown galleries).

Kent (1882-1971), whom you probably have run across at some point in your studies, is notable for forging a new American Symbolist aesthetic that evolved into his bold signature style. It eventually came to by symbolized by his utopian paintings of Alaskaís spare beauty. Subtle yet powerful, his works, many of which were painted on Monhegan, will be at the Portland Museum of Art June 23 through October 16 (check www.portlandmuseum.com for details).

We know how lucky we are to live here . . . well, most of the time. The next time it rains 28 days in a row, Iím outta here. But it always gives me a warm glow when artists from away say "Maine" with the same passionate fog they use for, "I do." Take Alex Katz, who found a reason to devote his life to painting in Skowhegan. From July 2 through October 16, the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland shows selected works that span Katzís 50-year love affair with the state. You can see his true emotions in "Self Portrait." Even though he is neck deep in a frigid lake (there even appears to be ice chunks floating about), his bald head is glowing with a smile that beats that of any child who gets to lick the bowl (call (207) 596-6457).

This past weekend I saw photos from my future sister-in-lawís recent safari trip. Wow. I mean, the animals are right there. After seeing those close-up water buffalos, I know Bernard Langlais must have been on a few safaris himself to be able to capture the animals as he does in his figurative wood drawings. At Aucociscoís High Street locale through August 31, these works are primal and focused. He hears a twig snap. Freeze. Listen. The tiger becomes ice. His tail stops in mid-swing. Ears perk. Eyes gaze past your shoulder . . . whatís that behind you?

Ahhhhh!

Itís a wild hyena ready to attack! No, really, it feels that way (call (207) 775-2227 to find out).

Another favorite artist of mine will be featured at ubu studio in July: bug man Mike Libby. Titled "Pseudo Science Fiction," the exhibit features Libbyís exotic insect-assemblage pieces that turn butterflies and spiders into cyborg-like creatures with watch parts and electronics. Mounted in shadow boxes, each bug is a proud example of the painstaking work that goes into this level of detail. Libby also shows some of his lesser-known sculptures that explore the expansion of objects in space.

So when Libby looks at space, he considers things expanding. When most people look at a space, their first instinct is to fill it . . . generally with furniture. The June Fitzpatrick Gallery at MECA and New Hampshireís Salmon Falls Village gallery help you with your interior decorating with artistic furniture pieces in July. Duane Paluskaís (at Fitzyís ó call (207) 879-5742) sculptures use furniture as a reference point but arrives at chairs you cannot sit on and tables that have a mind of their own. Itís a very "The snozberries taste like snozberries!" exhibit. In New Hampshire, George Belandís occasional tables sit in lovely profile with their elegant curves (youíd better use a coaster!) and Fred Loucks and Dan Hillís woven-wood bedroom set was recently displayed at the New York Contemporary Furniture Show (call (603) 742-8737).

You have the furniture, now you need a gigantic, gaudy house in which to put it. Need architectural inspiration? Check out Sheri Warshauerís "Conspicuous Consumption" at Matter Gallery through June (call (207) 233-3486). Analytical of contemporary upper-middle class society, the works focus on the interiors of well-to-do individuals. The paintings are a record of the architectural styles that she finds to dominate this class of home. "Optimal Oasis" is a scene from any you-kill-my-husband-so-we-can-get-the-insurance-and-then-Iíll-kill-you movie. Two-story windows reflect the sweeping vista, 1000-thread-count towels lie in wait on the chaise lounge, and a mannequin poses at the edge of the pool waiting for someone to notice her ó how lonely.

Another sign that summer is here is yummy fruit ó namely cherries. The sweet-tart turgid gems just beg to be eaten by the bushel, or painted as James Mahoney chooses. This guy is everywhere these days, from SPACE to the Biennial. And now his work, such as the chic, cherry-loving "Lucky 2," can be seen beside Barbara Rita Jenny at Whitney Art Works from June 22 through July 23 (call (207) 780-0700).

Certainly there is as much art in this city as there are pier fries at OOB, but art wonít make you look fat in a bikini. Hopefully, though, this taste is enough to tease your artistic buds into roaming the galleries this season. Since I already have a jump on yíall, I think Iíll dig up my old kite, smother it with Febreeze, and finally see what that puppy can do.

Maggie Knowles can be reached at margaretknowles@yahoo.com


Issue Date: June 10 - 16, 2005
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