Monday, November 03, 2008

Past to Present

Frost has knocked down the ferns and valerian, and for the first time since early spring, I got in close enough under the winterberry bushes to haul out lengths of wire fencing, its barbs long since blunted by rust. My project is to expose the rock walls along the property lines and get rid of old farm detritus. It’s at least as satisfying as making paintings, and quite possibly more enduring, since those rocks will be there long after we humans have departed. Later in the day. I heard a poet read this line: “walls made of rocks make a story from past to present.” That’s truly said.

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art, which hosted the reading, currently houses three exhibitions dealing with the past and present of art. Downstairs, there is an exhibition of paintings by the mentally ill members of the LINC and Waterville Social Clubs. Some of the artists are also poets and it was they who were reading. The directness of their poetry and conversation is that of people who, in spite of what life has handed them, maintain a rare honesty about who they are and why they make art. In speaking of how art has affected his life, the poet who spoke about walls also said this: “When you’re sick, you sink into a puddle, and when you’re getting well, it’s like you’re picking yourself up and making a body.”

How many artists, in this time of mental gymnastics, appropriated ideas, and lax physical discipline, are able to say that with each new work of art, they are in the truest sense producing themselves? Look for clues upstairs in Dennis Pinette’s work. Pinette is a passionate advocate of the art of painting whose watercolors let us follow indirect paths, the images taken up or left behind, as he develops concepts into concrete objects. On the ground floor, “First Traces,” an exhibition of sketchbooks and preparatory materials, also examines artists’ progress from ideas to finished works of art.

The shows continue through December 20, and you can read more about them here.

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