The Maine Art Gallery Anniversary Exhibition Comes Full Circle

John Heliker (1909–2000), The Clamhusker, 1989, oil on canvas, 22" x 16". Courtesy of the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation.
Chenoweth Hall (1908–1999), Corea II, 1963, watercolor, 16" x 20".
John Whalley, The Teacher, 2020, graphite on paper, 18" x 18". Courtesy of Greenhut Galleries.
Emily Muir (1904–2003), Marsh and Sea, oil on canvas, 16" x 24".
Daniel Minter, Beneath 7, 2021, linocut, 30" x 20.25". Courtesy of Greenhut Galleries.
David Etnier, Photograph of Eric Hopkins, North Haven, 1993.
Joel Babb, Wight Brook—Against the Light, 2011, oil on linen, 22" x 16". Courtesy of Greenhut Galleries.

When Winslow Myers was a senior at Philips Exeter Academy, he made a clay portrait bust of Ernest Hemingway. A cast was poured with “molten linotype metal” repurposed from the local community newspaper, and the resulting sculpture was juried into the Maine Art Gallery’s very first exhibition. That was the summer of 1958, and Myers was just 17. A year later, he attempted (when dared by college friends) to sell the bust to Hemingway and actually reached the famous writer by phone in Cuba, but Hemingway, sounding “tired and depressed,” declined the offer. Six decades later, the Hemingway bust has been invited back to Wiscasset for Generations, an expansive group exhibition honoring the 65th anniversary of Maine Art Gallery, curated by Carl Little.

Established in the former Wiscasset Academy schoolhouse in 1954, Maine Art Gallery was the vision of Mildred Burrage (1890–1983)—a “pillar of the Maine art scene,” as Little calls her—known both for her mica-based collage paintings and for her decades-long engagement and advocacy in Maine arts and historic preservation from the late 1940s through the 1970s. A founding mission of Maine Art Gallery was to showcase living artists—Maine residents from all parts of the state as well as seasonal visitors—with the intention of capturing an opportunity to exhibit works that were otherwise bound for New York galleries.

Generations is a three-part exhibition of art and historical memorabilia. The 1958 exhibition included over 50 works of painting and sculpture by an impressive roster of artist-members, and the first part of Generations celebrates these early years, with works by 14 artists from that original roster, including Burrage and Myers, Chenoweth Hall, Dahlov Ipcar, Gene Klebe, F.W. Saunders, William Thon, and connected to one of the exhibit’s many delightful art-legacy stories, the painter William Kienbusch, who was Carl Little’s uncle. Also included are John (Jack) Heliker, whose Heliker-LaHotan Foundation established an important, decades-long artist residency on Great Cranberry Island, and Emily Muir, who was instrumental in establishing the Deer Isle location for the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

The second part of Generations spans more recent decades and is designed around photographs by David Etnier. In the 1980s and 1990s, Etnier created a series of black-and-white documentary-style portraits of Maine artists working in their studios, including his father, painter Stephen Etnier, who was also an early member of the Maine Art Gallery. For Generations, David Etnier returns to the subject of artists working; this invitational portion of the exhibition features paintings and sculptures paired with Etnier’s contemporary portraits of Joel Babb, Dozier Bell, Alan Bray, Sam Cady, Alison Hildreth, Eric Hopkins, Daniel Minter, Celeste Roberge, Alice Spencer, and John Whalley.

Part three completes the circle; at the time of this writing, a new generation of Maine Art Gallery member-artists are submitting works for the juried portion of the exhibition, signifying that a 65-year-old mission is still brimming with potential and discovery. “Generations represents the evolving, intergenerational Maine art scene,” Little says. As it was, as it is, and what it will be.

Generations is on view at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset from May 4 to June 10, 2023

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