The University of Southern Maine Art Galleries was honored to host painter, author, and illustrator Daniel Minter as Artist-in-Residence this fall; his exhibition “OTHERED, Displaced from Malaga” is on view at the USM Art Gallery on the Gorham Campus through Sunday, December 9.
Minter’s exhibition recalls the complex story of Malaga Island, a small island on the coast of Maine that had been a community of mixed-race fishermen and small subsistence farmers. In 1912 the State purchased it, and under orders of the governor, forcibly evicted the community, removing the buildings and even exhuming their cemetery -- erasing their very existence.
Minter, known for his visual storytelling, recalled this story with paintings, assemblage, and a small house in the gallery filled with historical photographs and archeological artifacts relaying a sense of place, loss, emptiness and wholeness. Minter’s artwork reflects abiding themes of displacement and diaspora; ordinary/extraordinary blackness; spirituality in the Afro-Atlantic world; and the (re)creation of meanings of home.
"I imagine that the people of Malaga Island were able to maintain the sense of an inner home even at a time when every outward representation of home was being taken away. The image of the person standing in the water; the turbulent calm of the body and visage are reminders that in the face of eradication we may disappear but our spirits are not diminished. Our physical home is shallow whereas the depth of our inner home cannot be measured," states Minter.
As part of his USM residency, Minter gave student tours of the exhibition, met with the advanced painting students, and held a Malaga Panel Discussion for the community.
The panel evening included USM faculty Nate Hamilton, Professor of Archeology, and Rob Sanford, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, whom Minter has long collaborated with on Malaga Island research. Along with other local special guests, each speaker shared a short presentation on their research and projects related to Malaga Island.
USM alumna Kate McMahon also presented on the panel. McMahon studied with Hamilton during her time at USM and now works as a Researcher and Exhibition Development Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Her work is focused on bringing stories like this one to a global audience, "...the more we talk about it, engage with it, and bring these hidden stories to light I think the better we'll be better able to move forward as a society."
Minter's powerful work had an effect on students, as well as local art historians and reviewers.
Moia Leighton, a junior at USM, has a work-study position at the USM Art Gallery and helped install the show. She told us working with Daniel Minter was one of the best experiences she has been able to participate in at USM.
"As an anthropology major, this exhibit helped me to visualize/understand how much archaeology and public anthropology can shed new light on topics that most people do not talk about. The exhibit itself and Minter's attention to detail when talking about a much bigger topic in America is amazing. Everyone who comes to the gallery raves about how powerful this exhibit is. I feel so lucky to be a part of something that is so relevant to the climate in which America is in," said Leighton.
In USM's student-run newspaper, The Free Press, Minter explains that his work "depicts contemporary society—The United States is always trying to divide immigrants and distinguish those worthy and unworthy. Therefore the “methods” of the past are still extremely prevalent in our society."
In the Portland Press Herald, art historian Dan Kany states the show "...should not be missed. It is moving and beautiful. It is also oddly empowering: We are better than that, and we know it. And it gives us something to do in the name of good: We all need to be watchful to ensure nothing like this ever happens again (because it does happen). And it is this that brings us all together."
Art reviewer Carl Little closes, in his piece "Coming to Terms with Tragedy Through Art" for Hyperallergic, stating "With Minter’s ongoing contributions to the Malaga story, those ghosts, one feels, may be resting easier."
Minter is also launching a new artist residency and arts incubator "committed to the artistic development of citizens of color." Learn more about the Indigo Art Alliance, coming soon to the East Bayside neighborhood in Portland, Maine.
USM Art Gallery is grateful to the Warren Memorial Foundation for their support of this artist residency exhibition and catalog which will feature essays by the African-American Art scholar Henry Drewall and four interdisciplinary panelists.
Minter lived in Chicago and New York before moving to Portland, Maine where he now resides. From his base in Maine, Minter uses his art as a tool for dialogue with his community. He is the co-founder and creative visionary of the Portland Freedom Trail, a system of granite and bronze markers that constitutes a permanent walking trail highlighting the people, places and events associated with the anti-slavery movement in Portland. Minter was selected by The Partners of the Americas, having been chosen for their artist exchange program with Natal, Brazil in 2012. Minter’s additional recognitions include the James Washington Jr. sculptor-in-residence (Seattle, WA) and the Sapelo Island artist-in-residence (Sapelo Island, GA).
Minter’s paintings, carvings, block prints and sculptures have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at galleries and museums including the Portland Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, Hammonds House Museum, Northwest African American Art Museum, Museum Jorge Amado and the Meridian International Center.
By Maureen Puia // Office of Public Affairs