BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine Museum of Art is mounting “New Dawn Fades: Photographs by Thomas Hager,” June 24-Sept. 24 at the museum, 40 Harlow St. Also on display is “Photo National 2011: A Survey of Contemporary Photography.”
In “New Dawn Fades,” Thomas Hager pays homage to and expands upon early photographic processes developed and practiced in the 1840s by Sir John Herschel and Anna Atkins. By re-examining these historical processes, the photographer forges a distinct path, employing new techniques and technology to achieve his large-scale images.
In several of the featured works that incorporate figurative elements, Hager looks to art history for inspiration; works by Leonardo da Vinci, Andreas Vesalius and others are layered atop Hager’s photographs of various models. At times, Hager turns the camera on himself.
In the haunting self-portrait “Departure,” the nude torso of the photographer is layered with an anatomical drawing of a skeleton, as if wrestling with the dualities of flesh and spirit. Noted photographer Duane Michals, with whom Hager studied, said the artist “is attempting something with photography that is almost impossible — to make visible essential metaphysical questions about the self and its chaos of contradictions.”
The exhibition also features a stunning assortment of botanicals created using both cyanotype and Van Dyke Brown processes that reflect the photographer’s ongoing interest in the intersection of art and science.
Hager’s enlarged depictions of ginger, clover and sweet peas are several generations removed from his initial shot. The degradation that occurs to images during this multistepped process ultimately renders plants with an enhanced tonal range that disintegrates into the soft glow of their environments. In particular, Hager’s rich, Prussian-blue botanicals draw associations to photographic pioneer Anna Atkins’ cyanotype photograms of algae and ferns.
UMMA’s “Photo National 2011: A Survey of Contemporary Photography” features 76 works of art by 34 fine art photographers from throughout the United States. Photographers were chosen through a highly competitive jury process. The exhibition offers a glimpse into the diversity of contemporary photographic processes and various approaches prevalent today.
Photo National 2011 features a considerable quantity of color images that underscore the wide-spread practice of digital photography and archival inkjet printing. Works in a range of styles including historical photographic processes, photo-collage and assemblage, photo-documentary, and abstraction are highlighted.
While the exhibition attests to the unique visions of these varied photographers, the selection also emphasizes noticeable commonalities regarding style and subject matter. Photo-documentary approaches are well-represented in the exhibition as well as the landscape, contemporary portraits and interior spaces.
Several Maine-based photographers are represented in the exhibition, including: Jeffery C. Becton, Deer Isle; Melonie Bennett, Gorham; Leslie Bowman, Prescott; Anne-Claude Cotty, Stonington; Julie K. Gray, South Portland; Sean Alonzo Harris, Portland; Robert Moran, Bar Harbor; Jim Nickelson, Camden; Dianna Rust, Camden; Sarah Szwajkos, Rockland; and Shoshannah White, Portland.
Photo National 2011 was juried by Brian Paul Clamp, director of ClampArt Gallery in New York City; and George Kinghorn, director and curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art.
Admission to the museum is free in 2011 thanks to Machias Savings Bank in honor of Ted Leonard. The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.