Center for Maine Contemporary Art exhibit features 150 artists

Posted Oct. 06, 2010, at 7:46 p.m.

With nametag stickers on their chests, nearly 150 Maine photographers assembled at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport on Saturday, Oct. 2, for the opening of “Photographing Maine: Ten Years Later, 2000-2009.”

“There was a lot of energy in that room,” said CMCA Director Suzette McAvoy, who estimates more than 400 people attended the opening.

The invitational exhibit is the center’s second biggest show since the Maine Coast Artists first established the Rockport building as an art exhibition space in 1952, according to CMCA emeritus curator and exhibition organizer Bruce Brown of Portland.

Each photographer is represented by one photograph, creating a collection that fills the three-storied center.

Visitors can view documentary, figurative, still life, conceptual abstract, staged, panoramic and manipulated photos. The pieces are thoughtfully placed in loose themes: landscapes, portraits, nature and abstract.

The show pays homage to “Photographing Maine: 1840-2000,” a two-part show that displayed the work of 120 photographers at the CMCA in 2000. Of those photographers, 59 of them returned to present work in the 2010 exhibit.

Brown, who was CMCA curator for 20 years, retired in 2006. When the center collapsed financially last fall, he agreed to come back to oversee multiple exhibitions.

“The show was my idea. I had wanted to do it for a couple of years and knew the CMCA was the place to do it,” Brown said. “From my point of view, we have a unique role in having the whole history of photography and to be the one institution to do that in Maine.”

“In the course of the last decade, [Brown] really saw this explosion of photography in the state, especially with advances in digital photography,” McAvoy said. “There was a lot of new work and technical advancements, so it was the time to bring that survey of 10 years ago up to date.”

Brown drew up a list of Maine photographers and whittled it down to 150 coming from 55 towns and cities around the state.

“I recognize this as still an incomplete survey,” said Brown. “There are many more deserving photographers — probably most of them I don’t know — but it had to be an invitational.”

“I think [Brown] would have liked to have more, but we just physically couldn’t handle more and had to draw the line,” said McAvoy.

With the help of two Bowdoin College interns, Brown began organizing the show in early June.

Brown wanted the entire decade represented and was concerned that most photographers would select their newest work, so he had them submit 10-20 photos for the center to choose from.

“There’s really a wide range of work and presentations,” said McAvoy. The artwork varies in size dramatically. Some photos are mounted under Plexiglas, while others are printed on window shades.

In addition to one mounted photo, four digital images of each photographer’s work are projected in a lower level gallery. A Portable Document Format (PDF) of the images will be placed online at www.cmcanow.org.

“It gives a little more flavor of each photographers’ work to see four images together instead of just one,” said CMCA operations manager Paula Blanchard.

The exhibit will be open through Dec. 5.

This fall, the center will hold two photography workshops. “Welcome to Oz” presented by Vincent Versace, international guru on digital photography and PhotoShop, will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17. The cost is $5 for nonmembers, free for members.

“Looking Forward, Looking Back,” presented by a panel of photographers using historic and digital processes will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14.

A 190-page catalogue of all of the work in the show, including artist statements is available at the CMCA for $35.95.

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art at 162 Russell Ave. in Rockport exhibits work by 300 to 400 living artists a year and provides workshops and education opportunities. Each year, more than 14,000 visitors walk through the doors into the spacious showroom. For information, call 236-2875 or visit www.cmcanow.org.

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