You Can’t Get There From Here
A preview of the 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial
This year marks the Portland Museum of Art’s ninth Biennial exhibition. Opening October 8 and on view through January 3, 2016, You Can’t Get There from Here highlights the richness and depth of contemporary art in Maine. Curated this year by Alison Ferris and funded through the bequest of William E. Thon, the Biennial showcases artists who have meaningful connections to Maine.
This is the first year the PMA has organized the Biennial exhibition entirely through invitation, based on dozens of studio visits Ferris conducted over a six-month period. Ferris is currently curator at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where she has organized critically acclaimed exhibitions, including The Kids Are All Right: An Exhibition about Family and Photography and Toward Textiles.
PMA Chief Curator Jessica May says the time was right to entrust a curator with the Biennial. “It was pretty clear that we needed to look hard at the Biennial structure—which up to that point had been juried open-call—and to think about how to introduce a strong curatorial voice into the exhibition, in order to offer audiences the opportunity to experience an authentic narrative about contemporary art and the creative process,” says May.
As the 2015 PMA Biennial began to take shape, Ferris became captivated by the Maine saying “you can’t get there from here,” and found inspiration in the parallels between the phrase and the creative process of visual artists. “Maine, the place, is an undercurrent in all this work, but not in ways that are obvious,” says Ferris. “For instance, Maine is neither used by nor portrayed as an idyllic refuge by the artists in this exhibition. Instead, all of these artists have found here, at different times and in different manners, a way to get lost in the artistic process. What I hope to highlight are the many ways that these artists have embraced the unknown and engaged in a lengthy, disciplined course of action to make it theirs.”
You Can’t Get There from Here includes established Maine artists who have created notable new bodies of work and those who have traveled outside of Maine and are becoming known outside its borders. The Biennial also represents the first major institutional appearance for several young, emerging artists, showcasing the next wave of Maine artists.
“We are very fortunate this year to have Alison Ferris as our curator because of her breadth of knowledge and experience working with artists and museums in our region,” says PMA Director Mark Bessire. “I am very proud that she has organized a Biennial with such focus and including such a diverse range of artists. Her vision enables our audiences to see how strong the state of the arts in Maine continues to be.” On these pages, MH+D presents a preview of this year’s Biennial.