December 15, 2018
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Influences converge at UMMA exhibit

BANGOR, Maine — Artist Megan Chase grew up in Freedom, but she doesn’t let that define her or the way in which she pursues her painting.

Gerald Immonen is a Michigan native who found Maine more than 10 years ago, but to look at his work is to feel like he has immersed himself in the landscape here for decades.

Same state. Different approaches.

But they have this in common, at least for the next 3½ months — they’re both part of the new winter exhibitions at the University of Maine Museum of Art.

“Resonant Landscapes: Paintings by Megan Chase” and “Burnt Cove: Watercolors of the Maine Landscape” opened last week along with two other exhibitions, “Simple Complexity: Installation and Works by Gerry Stecca” and “Bio-Permutation: Sculptures by David Isenhour.”

All four exhibits close April 3.

Chase has been living in Maine for about 12 years since returning from New York City, where she earned a certificate in painting and sculpture from the New York Studio School. She is now one of the owners of the well-regarded Chase’s Daily restaurant in Belfast and has a studio in the same Main Street building as the eatery.

Her expressionistic landscapes are filled with color and light, and color is of primary importance — yet it’s not necessarily Maine color light, she said. The golds and peaches of a work such as 1998’s “Untitled” are more representative of her travels to places such as Spain and southern Italy.

A 2009 “Untitled,” one of several works created specifically for the UMaine show, depicts farmland as a patchwork quilt of color and different kinds of brushstrokes.

“To say that Maine fulfils my fantasies, it doesn’t,” Chase said. “I live here, I work here, but lightwise it doesn’t. So it’s not representational. I’m not working from the Maine landscape, it just happens to be a subject matter. You end up writing what you know, and you end up painting what you know.”

Immonen, on the other hand, gets right to a sense of fantasy in his watercolors. A professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, he first came to Maine in 1998 and now spends the May-October season in a home and studio at the head of Burnt Cove in Stonington.

The small-scale works — some are just 6 inches square — have a hazy, spiritual quality. It’s that spirit and ever-changing nature of the landscape he aims to capture, and one he said he sees in his travels and his stays in Maine, where sun can turn to fog in minutes, and summer can change to fall overnight.

“It’s a very elusive thing,” he said. “You sit there and you’re looking, you turn away and it’s gone.”

In Immonen’s work, such as 2009’s “The Air of Other Summers,” the brushstrokes, which can be both precise and sweeping in the same painting, convey that sense of elusiveness one gets in nature. Look once and a leaf will be in one place on the ground; look again a second later and a breeze will have blown the leaf to a differ-ent spot.

In communicating nature’s shifts, Immonen said his aim to take the viewer into a different world, with the same effect a play or opera might have on the audience.

“What I came to understand through theater was, when something moves you, you give up control and it takes you into that world,” he said. “That’s when it becomes transformative. I found, being in the landscape, that sense of wanting to be taken into another world.”

Where the paintings of Chase and Immonen stay on the land, the work of both Stecca and Isenhour is whimsical and fantastical.

Stecca’s four installation sculptures are all made out of a medium not typically used in artwork — clothespins. Although his first stab at working with clothespins came seven years ago when he designed a dress made out of the common household item for a friend who was going to a fetish party in Miami, Stecca’s work is now meant for art and public spaces.

There’s not a lot of deep meaning behind the work, Stecca said, but they do stem from his lifelong love of playing with Lego blocks and interest in putting things together.

“Most people had clothespins in their house, at least,” said Stecca, who estimated the four pieces, including one created for the UMMA exhibition, contain more than 10,000 clothespins. “A lady the other day called them the original Legos. I can definitely see the connection. I like what they do, the reaction that people have.”

If you’re a fan of the long-running television show “The Simpsons,” Isenhour’s sculptures may immediately bring to mind the town of Springfield’s multi-eyed fish, victims of the local nuclear power plant.

If that analogy doesn’t make sense, just think of a mad doctor’s scientific experiments or a genetic experiment gone wrong — too many hands or feet coming out of a work, or faces embedded in a cloud in another.

Isenhour’s creations are made with a polyiso foam and polyester resin and then coated with automobile finish for sleek perfection. They’re almost too perfect, in fact, and combined with the cheery finish colors Isenhour chooses, such as a rosy pink or mint green, seem to highlight how imperfect — genetically, at least — the works are.


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