USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland

RESTORATION 2021: An Exhibition by BFA and BA Students from the University of Southern Maine

Left: A sampling of Senior Seminar class artwork on display on the 5th floor of the Glickman Family Library through September 30, 2021.

This exhibition is by USM Art Department graduating seniors of 2021 in the Studio BFA, BA and BFA in Art Education programs. They have endured unprecedented challenges in their education. Many thanks go out to each one of them for their patience and resilience. Also, to the faculty and all those that have supported each one of them through these last many months.

The class of 2021 has been located within the confluence of Covid 19, the realities of our environmental devastation, and an explosion in our awareness of racial inequity. It has seen increases in mental health and substance use disorders, international tensions and a nation fragmented along political, social, and economic lines. The very fabric of our nation is being challenged as never before by deceit, extremism and hate. There is a broad range of issues and positions but one thing is clear we are in need of greater awareness and restoration and this is made in various ways through connection. Connection to self, to place, to history and to each other. This theme runs through each of the students works in different and unique ways. Sometimes it is at the forefront and overt. At other times it quietly flows beneath the surface. 

Peter Paolucci addresses insecurity, loneliness and depression rooted in his personal experiences with autism. He shows us his emotions through abstracted images reminiscent of the vast universe or an exploding nova. Beautifully and sensitively crafted they are subtle and nuanced and they draw the viewer in to them. His work brings the viewer into his place and state of being on a spiritual level that allows us to sense wonder and resiliency. In his simple black and white ink drawings “Hope” and “Despair” he uses the broken and tangled power lines graphicly and symbolically. Through loss and repair his work ultimately is a means to the ends of self-understanding. As he courageously deals with these issues, he unmasks the taboo and offers hope and healing to others as well.

Samantha Comeau is a digital Art and Design major. She works primarily with photography and digital video but also has worked in ceramics as well. Her photography is primarily in the area of portraiture. Her digital videos often are long minimalistic meditative works that are taken from simple natural phenomena such as surf, wind, or flowing water. They are looped so to offer a continual experience. While the videos are simple by design it is the delivery that is most interesting. They are accessed through QR codes that are placed on stickers and strategically shared or left out in the public. Thus, someone amidst the bustle of a downtown can click on a randomly found QR code and connect to the sound and sight of water rolling over rocks. While we are more and more disengaged from our natural environment due to our engagement with technology this has the capacity to transport the viewer and reconnect us to the subtleties of nature through the very thing that has pulled us away from it.

Sydney Stultz has a range of major areas from ceramics to art history. Her passion is painting and works on paper but her abilities extend to ceramics as well. Her skill as a painter is in evidence with her large-scale portraits in the series titled “Headspace”.  While these are powerful beautifully done portraits much of her work is about the tension between fragmentation and cohesion. In the ceramic works “Shattered River” one form broken and fragmented flows around an amorphic vessel. The shards refer to a vessel itself which like stones in a river have a green glaze flowing over them. Similarly, the works “Scotland” and “Ireland” draw from her familial histories and how these are seen from, and inform, her present state. These images are made up of fragmented images from old photographs and altered through time and context. They are, like a mosaic of memories and stories, woven into a greater whole of personal understanding and familial connection.

Ashley Ricker works in the realm of mortality and memory. She sets a stage but intentionally does not allow the full script to be read. She has the capacity to use digital images, paint and draw, moving from the abstract to the photorealistic. Her paintings of a female and male torso show long surgical scars down the chest. They project a sense of wounding but also repair and resilience. In her own portrait she is kneeling in a flowing red dress looking left while light coming in over her shoulder from the right. She is contemplative holding her own chest. Such a pose refers to historical works that touch on passion, power and energy but also calm and contemplation. Light streams in and knots bind. In her work are connections to one’s body, to others and to the larger world.

Those involved in Art Education are inherently engaged in restoration through connection. Through the building of a student’s confidence and abilities to engage with ideas and processes they are more able to make sense of a complex and often contradictory world. While these teachers instruct, they also guide and are often transformed by their students as well. In a world that greatly is in need of restoration it is the connection to self and others that a good teacher can do like few others.

This Art Education exhibit showcases the work of art education students who have been working in k-12 classrooms. Each student has curated a personal exhibit based on their teaching and art philosophies, as contextualized within their internship placements. These student exhibits illustrate the unique connection each feels to both their teaching and making. They have included some of their students’ work in order to share the role their students play within their own creative process as a maker. There is no question that what we teach is based on who we are, and what we feel is important in art and life. This show celebrates the truth; that what and how we teach is both driven and also drives what and how we make.

The photographs of Lindsey Bosk are haunting, thoughtful, and lush. Impeccably crafted, they combine sensibilities draw from fashion photography and staged cinematography.  “Melting” and “Breath” portray the artist partially submerged and floating. There is a sense of tranquility and transcendence. With eyes shut the viewer is left in a state of tension between life and lifelessness. This holds true, and is more intense, in the digital photograph “Earth”. Here the female figure again is floating amidst leaves twigs and sticks with heavily mascaraed eyes open but looking away and past the viewer. With a subtle smile one wonders if this is a live figure or one left for dead. Her students likewise engage in art rooted in looking at human experience, inequities, and environmental concerns. From the overt to the subtle she imparts in her students an ability for art to make the viewer think about the expressions it offers and in the questions it raises.

Natasha Shacklett makes and mends work that is complex and thoughtful. It embodies the spiritual as seen in the glowing torso, hand, and foot of “Wax and Wane” - like reliquaries both lit by the flame and simultaneously transformed by it. Engaging in handwork, like sewing and quilting, Natasha offers powerful statements rooted in personal identity and acceptance. The 2021 quilt, “Queer and Here”, made with scrap fabrics, celebrates identity with a comforting softness that only a hand-stitched quilt can. In the paper 5th Grade Community Quilt their students articulate acceptance as a root of their experience at Great Falls Elementary School, patching together expressions of words such as ‘Kindness’, ‘Fun’, ‘Happy’ and ‘Courageous’. Here the quilt is a metaphor for comfort and connectivity. It finds an equally overt expression in their 2020 print “Thank You Thank You Thank You” where the words rise out of shapes informed by broken eggshells. Mending is a constant in Natasha’s work. In their work “The Twins”, the sewing of a chair like a long scar across it’s seat creates functionality once again. In the companion chair the mending is more spatially articulated, embracing space while defying use. For Natasha, mending is both a process and a philosophy. Evoking connection and the restoration of our world through the simple, mindful touch between humans and materials -- creating value in the rejected and cast off.

Rosalyn Moisan makes ceramic vessels that flow and dance like sheets in the wind. Aptly titled “Flow” they at once embrace holding but also have such a strong flowing sculptural form that anything with in them would seem out of place. To the contrary her enclosed vessels “Explorations with Darts” twist and turn. It is movement that motivates Rosalyn’s ceramics work. She is an explorer of form and she instills this in her students. As she says in her statement “making art is a process, not always about the end product. Growth over quality, effort over perfection, process over product.” This can be seen in her drawings and paintings as well. Particularly, the “Gestured Self-Portrait” where the proportions and shapes are so well articulated and the face is intentionally a blur. It is as if it is there, and yet it is not. It is in a state of becoming.

Michael Shaughnessy

Professor of Art