Two shows at CMCA aim to engage viewers

Posted May 04, 2009, at 7:27 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — While mystery and quiet beauty imbue much of the work in Linden Frederick’s show at the museum, two other current exhibitions at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art come from a more lighthearted place.

You might not laugh out loud at “Comic-al,” which opened late last month, and “On and Off the Midway,” which opened in March and will close at the end of May, but you’ll get a kick out of the references and images. Heck, you might even see yourself in some of them.

“Comic-al” is a mixed-media collection of works by 12 artists who were influenced by or use comics, animation and other popular imagery. Some of the artists use sequential narrative as in a comic book. Others focus on the comics’ style of line drawing.

Others riff on pop culture images, such as Randy Regier’s Ken doll-inspired John Manshaft dolls, depicted as a businessman, a “Space Age Commander-in-Chief,” a “Future Farmer of Americorp,” or “CRAPSTAR: Male Model.”

“On and Off the Midway,” curated by CMCA curator emeritus Bruce Brown, features 87 photographs from more than 20 photographers, including 11 photographers who have never before exhibited at CMCA, depicting scenes from 26 different Maine events, such as state fairs, rallies, parades and festivals. It’s a celebration of how Maine people gather in public to celebrate events, depicted from several different points of view.

There are behind-the-scenes images, such as Patrisha McLean’s photographs of children getting ready for Castine’s Fourth of July parade, or Brad Maushart’s “Your Change,” an image of cash changing hands at the Fryeburg Fair, and the green portable toilets in Philip M. Isaacson’s “Untitled” from a carnival in Auburn.

There are action shots, such as Rene Braun’s “Rodeo” and “Working Horses” from the Cumberland Fair, pops of color in Diane Hudson’s “Peace Parade, Portland,” and a still life of shelves of produce in Thomas Birtwistle’s “Exhibition Hall, Piscataquis Valley Fair.”

“Mainers find so many ways to celebrate social, environmental and seasonal events,” Brown wrote of the show, “and fortunately they attract the attention of several of Maine’s most gifted photographers who help us see popular culture in new and engaging ways.”

“Comic-al” closes July 18. There will be an artists’ round-table discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 14. “On and Off the Midway” closes June 13 with a gallery talk at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2. For more information go to www.cmcanow.org or call 236-2875.

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