Maine Women Pioneers III

By: Christopher Volpe

The Art Gallery, University of New England • Portland, ME • • Homage: January 2–March 3, 2013; Worldview: March 12–May 12, 2013; Dirigo: May 22–July 21, 2013

Rose Marasco
Rose Marasco, Silverware Diary, 1998.

What defines a “pioneering” artist in the twenty-first century? In partial answer to this important but never simply elaborated question, an ambitious year-long exhibition of groundbreaking contemporary art by women in Maine is underway at the University of New England in Portland.

Showcasing fifty living artists chosen for their trailblazing leadership, Maine Women Pioneers III builds upon two previous exhibitions mounted under the same “pioneers” banner during the 1980s. The current Maine Women Pioneers III project comprises four separate shows running consecutively until July 21, 2013, accompanied by essays, educational programs and video presentations. It has been co-curated by Anne B. Zill, director; Gael May McKibben; and Andres A. Verzosa.

Homage, the second in the series, highlights artists whose successful, lifelong careers provide powerful models of original creative accomplishment fueled by unceasing artistic exploration and development. The thirteen impressive Maine pioneers whose work is exhibited are Lois Dodd, Maggie Foskett, Susan Groce, Beverly Hallam, Alison Hildreth, Frances Hodsdon, Lissa Hunter, Dahlov Ipcar, Yvonne Jacquette, Frances Kornbluth, Rose Marasco, Marilyn Quint-Rose, and Katarina Weslien.

Many of these artists are revered for contributions to American art made first during the 1940s and ’50s, and later as their styles evolved over subsequent decades. Others have introduced significant innovations in their practice. As evidenced in Homage, their subject matter is as varied as the expressive modes they employ, including found natural objects, conceptual collage, aerial urban views, biomorphic and geometric abstraction, dream imagery, and creative revisions of traditional forms like portrait and still life. Following Homage, the series continues with Worldview and Dirigo. Worldview will focus on the work of artists who emphasize ethics, emotions, and existential, holistic themes aligned with activists, healers, and visionaries. The iconoclastic individualists whose work has been chosen for Dirigo (the word references Maine’s motto, “I lead”) appear driven to break with preconceived norms and traditions by pushing their personal media into new and different territories.

The show’s curators wisely avoided a survey approach and so thought carefully about what constitutes pioneering innovation in contemporary art. A major testament unrivaled by its precedents, Maine Women Pioneers III is a monumental achievement and an important event in the history of art exhibitions in Maine.

—Christopher Volpe

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