ALAN BRAY (American, born 1946), “First Snow,” 2012, Casein on panel, Courtesy of the artist and Caldbeck Gallery, Rockland, Maine.
BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St., will celebrate fall with three new exhibitions and a rotation of the museum’s permanent collection. the museum, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday brings innovative contemporary art exhibitions to the region and presents approximately 12 original exhibitions each year. UMMA’s fall exhibitions will open to the public onFriday, Oct. 5, and will run through Jan. 5. Admission is free in 2012 thanks to the generosity of Machias Savings Bank.
On display will be:
* Alan Bray: “At the Edges.” While Bray’s paintings possess elements of realism, there are distinctive shifts of perspective and simplification of forms that characterize the artist’s highly individual approach to his process and subjects. Bray’s stylized landscapes are imbued with a sense of mystery, solitude and stillness. Locations around his central Maine home are the inspiration for his works. These offer a dramatic contrast to the prevailing depiction of Maine’s rocky coastline and harbors explored by many other artists. Bray’s landscapes emerge out of a deep familiarity with, and a prolonged immersion in, these less traveled surroundings. Through keen awareness and observation, the essence of these places is realized. Inspired by Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space,” Bray creates seemingly quiet scenes which are, in reality, rich with ever shifting natural phenomena. These paintings capture unexpected moments – a lush bubbling spring lined with snow, a rectangular cluster of vivid orange trees encircled by a forest of brown, and a mysterious path cut through grass by heavy boots.
Bray has worked with casein, a hard to find milk-based paint, since his studies in Italy in the 1970s. His chosen medium and process are well suited to the way in which the compositions evolve. Bray often plans out a work on a slate blackboard and spends time ruminating on the painting’s structure. He then commences with the labor intensive process of applying successive layers of thin paint. The beauty and challenge of the casein is that the layers dry quickly and one is able to work for hours. Areas are, at times, sanded down and reworked. The final images emerge only after extensive work and a buildup of layers which expose the unique attributes of the casein. Bray’s paintings of familiar places convey the ebb and flow of natural phenomena; and depict moments of the profound beauty that often lie at the edges of our perception.
Through the generosity of the artist and numerous collectors, the more than 20 works assembled at UMMA offer a glimpse into one of Maine’s most respected contemporary landscape painters.
* Mayumi Sarai: “Ring Cycle.” Japanese-born artist Sarai draws inspiration from organic structures and other natural processes to create her carved wooden sculptures. Using traditional Japanese hand tools, Sarai meticulously handcrafts individual elements which are incorporated into larger constructions. An abundance of rough-hewn and faceted spheres bind together and morph into shapes that resemble cellular formations, atoms and DNA strands. Other recurring forms are bowl-like shapes which, when clustered together, may reference groupings of attached domestic vessels, colonies of fungi or even imagined types of flora.
In the UMMA exhibition, the artist creates a dynamic dialog between singular floor-based works and an array of hanging sculptures. A constellation of small works form a wall installation that encompasses an expanse of gallery wall. These alluring sculptures resemble starbursts or organisms; they may be humorous representations from both macro and micro worlds. Three intertwined rings, composed of bead-like strands of blond wood, rise up from the floor while another hangs in proximity. Each of the repetitive forms bears her carefully chiseled marks and reflects the meditative nature of the artist’s creative process. Sarai’s sculptures reflect what is most elemental. Using several types of found wood, the artist offers a prolonged contemplation of our essential and spiritual connection to the natural world.
Sarai received an bachelor’s degree from Nihon University College of Art in Tokyo. She moved to New York City in 1991 and studied at the New York Studio School.
* “Susan Belton: “What;s Yours?” Belton is intrigued with the things we consume and how daily rituals reveal aspects of our individuality. In “What’s Yours?” Belton has targeted the ubiquitous logo-emblazoned takeout coffee cup which reflects the preoccupation with brand loyalty that pervades contemporary consumerism. The artist explores the connection between alluring product packaging, carefully fashioned by purveyors, and how our purchasing choices disclose subtle details about our personality, desires and habits. Even more, our favorite brands link us to group identities, such as regional tastes and social strata. Similar to Andy Warhol’s pop art Brillo boxes, Belton has elevated a packaged product into the ranks of high art. Her focused attention, bold rendering, and beautiful paint passages provide a second life to the colorful graphic labels that decorate these disposable cups.
“What’s Yours?” features a grid of 20 sensitively rendered oil on panel portraits of various cups collected by the artist during her travels. Belton remarks that the group of cup portraits “read like high school yearbook photos” that may shed future light on “the collective taste and values of a certain era.” Also included is a series of still life drawings on paper and vellum, in which Belton creates a dizzying mash up of colorful logos
and outlines of overlapping plastic lids and containers. The rhythmic outlines vibrate with a dynamic array of contour lines.
Belton received a bachelor’s degree from Colby College and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.