March 24, 2018
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UMMA features photography, sculpture shows

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff

BANGOR — Boys will be boys, until they grow up, become artists and let their boyhood experiences and interests penetrate their work as men.

The boyishness remains, however, in two of the three exhibitions that opened last week at the University of Maine Museum of Art.

“Highway of Thought: Photographs by David Hilliard,” and “Recent Sculptures by Christopher Frost” are on display in the museum through Sept. 19, along with “Elegant Darkness: Photographs by Connie Imboden.”

Hilliard’s 16 images — each complete image is actually made up of several panels — explore stages and types of masculinity, particularly in boys and young men, although Hilliard includes images of himself and his father.

“It’s kind of physical, emotional, spiritual milestones and moments,” Hilliard said during last week’s opening. “Some are more narrative, in some it’s more apparent what they’re about, and some are really just portraits of a type of man. This work’s very much about me and my take on things, but hopefully it’s open in its message.”

Hilliard’s message seems to be that boys go through all kinds of experiences that make them men, from the challenging stances of two basketball squads in “Shirts-vs-Skins” to the successful fishing expedition of “Hope.”

Some of the photographs are staged, such as “Hug,” which is an image Hilliard made of himself hugging his father. Other images, such as “Hulk,” a portrait of a lightly muscled man taken at a fair, were more spontaneous. Nothing can be too spur-of-the-moment, however — Hilliard uses a large-format camera to make his images.

Hilliard said his goal in presenting this work in a series of panels is to convey a sense of theater. Some of the images are diptychs, many triptychs, and some are made up of four panels. The panels are all individual images, some of which were made at different times, and not spliced from negatives.

“They’re separate moments in time with shifting focus, so that the time and the space shift as you move through the photographs,” said Hilliard, who grew up in Lowell, Mass., and has a house in the western Maine town of Stoneham. “I love the static nature of photography but I also love the fluid quality of cinema, so I thought this was a nice middle point.”

The three sculptures in Frost’s collection of recent works also have a boyish quality to them. Frost, a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston who lives now in Somerville, Mass., grew up the son of an architect.

“I spent a lot of time as a kid surrounded by architectural models,” he said last week. “I think there’s something about that which sort of got the ball rolling.”

The largest Frost work at UMMA is “Acanthus” which resembles small-town America as a treehouse turned upside down. Frost made small models of buildings and a tree from fiberboard — he wanted to use a raw material to put the emphasis on the form and scale of the objects — and placed the buildings in the tree branches.

The buildings include churches, barns, farmhouses, and even an Italianate house. Some of his models are taken from real buildings, such as the Ames Building in Boston.

Some are perched with their roofs facing the museum floor, others are on their sides.

“When [the buildings are set normally], it’s really about us as opposed to the building, it’s about human interaction with the building,” he said. “I guess I’m trying to take [the buildings] and put them in a way that you get to see them as forms, shapes and objects as opposed to these things we’re so used to inhabiting or going to work in.”

The photographic work of Imboden, a longtime teacher at the Maine Media Workshop in Rockport, presents a stark contrast to all this boyishness.

UMMA director George Kinghorn said Imboden puts her models in pools of water, and she makes many of her photographs from underwater, although some in this exhibition were taken from above. She captures the moment the model’s flesh breaks the surface of the water.

The black-and-white images are meant to confuse the viewer — it’s not easy to recognize some of the body parts — and some of the photographs are so silky, smooth and elegant that it seems impossible the images are of humans.

“Some people have asked if this was done in Photoshop,” Kinghorn said. “No, it wasn’t. She started doing these photographs before Photoshop was around. It’s done purely through the camera lens and artful camera angles.”

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