(Above: Igneous Growth," white earthenware with underglaze and glaze, 3.5" x 7" x 6" - Andrea Schmidt Cough, Damariscotta, Maine)
He has brought me a vase,
its orbed luster. My left hand
retraces the form, my right
seeks the finish.
A face swims in it, eyes
like two opalescent fish.
–Leonore Hildebrandt, from Episodes in Glass
The Inspired Hand 5, the juried biennial exhibition of work by members of the Maine Crafts Association (MCA) at the Atrium Art Gallery opened Friday, January 20, 2012 with a reception from 6-8 p.m. The exhibition of work by 35 artists from around the state represents the best of MCA members in an inspired perspective of contemporary crafts in the state. The exhibition includes work in all media -- ceramic, fiber, glass, metal, wood, and stone. In addition, the work of 6 recipients of the Master Craft Artist Award will also be featured.
The opening reception featured Maine’s Poet Laureate, Wesley McNair, reading a selection of poems from “The Inspired Pen,” a poetry chapbook created for the exhibit. Copies of the limited edition chapbook will be available free at the opening.
With support from the Maine Humanities Council, the Writing Center at USM's Lewiston-Auburn College and the Atrium Art Gallery collaborated on The Inspired Pen, a selection of 16 poems inspired by handmade objects or the process of creating them. Jurors for the final selection of poems were Annie Finch and Robert Farnsworth.
Also featured was the Tim Clough/John Smedley Jazz Duo performing jazz standards and jazz originals.
The Maine Crafts Association, a non-profit state-wide organization founded in 1983, is dedicated to the support and encouragement of Maine craft artists. Noted for its outstanding educational and exhibition programs, MCA is committed to promoting and advocating for contemporary crafts throughout the state. Since 2008, MCA has brought craft to a broad segment of Maine's population and visitors through its Centers for Maine Craft, year-round at the Maine Turnpike Service Plaza in West Gardiner and seasonally at the Maine Mall's summer Creative Common and Bangor Mall's winter Maine Craft Holiday Store. More than 500 Maine craftspeople benefit from these non-traditional arts venues, while shoppers gain easy access to fine craft and new insight into the work of local craftspeople. Website: mainecrafts.org
Inspired hands on deck! That’s the call that has gone out five times since 2000 when the Maine Crafts Association and the Atrium Art Gallery began teaming up to present a juried biennial of craft art from across the state.
The resulting displays have been wonderfully eclectic and often marvelous, and they have confirmed the fact that Maine craft artists are creating some of the most exciting—and inspired—handwork in the country.
This fifth edition continues the tradition, offering an array of engaging pieces from 35 artists with strong ties to Maine. You will find all manner of shapes, colors and designs, from the graceful lines of a “heron” table by Eben Blaney to the lively assortment of precious materials in a John Wise bracelet. In between one finds glass, stoneware, fiber and steel—not to mention an accordion book by former Belfast poet laureate Karin Spitfire.
The aesthetics of recycling are manifested in several works. A necklace by Edward Mackenzie utilizes piano parts to great effect. Anne-Claude Cotty’s brooches, some of which double as pendants, are handsome abstract geometric compositions made from found and formed metal.
In fact, ornament artists offer an altogether captivating clutch this time around. Peggy Johnson, known for her insect jewelry, brings us cutaway moth and bird brooches, including a perching crow. Surely Wonder Woman would covet Christine Peters Hamilton’s stunning cuff bracelets, and the eyes have it in Willy Reddick’s somewhat startling pins.
The vessel is represented by diverse forms and functions. Jemma Gascoine achieves a Zen-like purity of shape in her red stoneware bowl. By contrast, the surface of Natalie Ann Gardner’s stately raku pitcher is a rich assortment of lines and marks, while Tyler Gulden’s pottery pieces offer a lovely mottled glaze.
Meryl Ruth’s teapots may take the prize in the fanciful category: Imagine pouring tea from a ceramic French horn! Mark Johnson’s white stoneware teapot also has a whimsical quality—like something Alice would have had on hand in Wonderland. And Alice might have served the biscuits on one of Lucy Breslin’s platters edged in floral and fruit decorations.
Home furnishings and fixtures take some exciting turns. Kenneth Kohl’s mirrors are remarkable constructs of glass and wood, far removed from the standard hallway looking-glass; and a hanging lamp designed by Jim Crampton is eerily luminescent. The legs of Wayne Hall’s walnut hall table are a becoming tangle of branches. Gregg Lipton’s coffee table, made of walnut and tropical olive wood, offers ample room for hot beverages—or Spitfire’s splendid artist’s book.
(image: Bowl, Jemma Gascoine)
Wall works include lovely layered monotypes by Marguerite Ogden and Sarah Shepley and beguiling “drawing boxes” by Elena Kubler that blend bright acrylic and printing ink. The fiber arts make a strong showing by way of Morris David Dorenfeld’s modernist tapestries; several stunning shadow boxes by Jill Snyder Wallace that feature intricate embroidery; and the bewitching stitchery of Katherine Harman Harding and Phyllis Harper Loney.
Reviewing “The Inspired Hand IV” in the Maine Sunday Telegram two years ago, distinguished critic Philip Isaacson wrote that crafts of the kind showcased in the exhibition are “largely works of art achieved through processes classical to functional objects.” This observation serves this year’s display as well. One thinks of Lynn Duryea’s Dada-like terracotta objects; David Jacobson’s Oceans glass construction; Andrea Schmidt Cough’s alluring stones; and Susan Perrine’s multi-medium creations.
The show also features work by Maine Crafts Association “Master Craft Artist” award winners: Christian Becksvoort, Katherine Cobey and Jacques Vesery, who served as exhibition judges; and Paul Heroux, Lissa Hunter and Fred Woell. “Master” is not a term used lightly—these six have earned their craft artist stripes, in ceramics, wood, metal and fiber.
So let’s give a hand to these inspired hands: Bravo and keep on creating.
- Carl Little is a regular contributor to Ornament magazine. His latest book is Eric Hopkins: Above and Beyond (Down East).
Andrea Schmidt Cough
Morris David Dorenfeld
Natalie Ann Gardner
Christine Peters Hamilton
Katherine Harman Harding
Phyllis Harper Loney
Jill Snyder Wallace
Featuring work by the Maine Crafts Association’s Master Craft Artists:
Marcia F. Brown
Michael R. Brown
Kimberly Cloutier Green