‘OPENING AT GREENHUT GALLERIES’ This painting by Nancy Morgan Barnes is enjoyably self-referential.
Every so often Greenhut organizes a "Portland Show," gathering works mostly about the city, or by artists who are identified with it, or both. It's usually a jolly affair — the theme is loose enough to be broadly inclusive, and the rooms are big enough to corral a good-sized roundup of the usual suspects plus a few stray outliers not often seen.
There are close to 60 pieces by 54 artists: Ben Aronson, Joel Babb, Susan Barnes, Mary Bourke, Jeff Bye, Sam Cady, David Campbell, Thomas Connolly, Ben Coombs, Marsha Donahue, Linden Frederick, Margaret Gerding, Roy Germon, Alison Goodwin, Tom Hall, Jaap Eduard Helder, Peyton Higgison, Lissa Hunter, Jon Imber, Tina Ingraham, Sarah Knock, Ben Lambert, Andre LaPorte, Nathaniel Larrabee, Margaret Lawrence, C. Michael Lewis, James Linehan, George Lloyd, Fred Lynch, Janet Conlon Manyan, K. Min, Daniel Minter, Nancy Morgan Barnes, Joseph Nicoletti, Colin Page, Tom Paiement, Michael Palmer, Greg Parker, Dennis Pinette, Sandra Quinn, Shannon Ranking, Alison Rector, Richard Remsen, Glenn Rennell, Alec Richardson, Robert Shetterly, Alice Spencer, Barbara Sullivan, Lori Tremblay, George Wardlaw, John Whalley, Richard Wilson, Henry Wolyniec, and Jeff Woodbury.
The only thing to do with a list this long, or a show this big, is to have some fun with it. For instance, since I've been reviewing on and off in these parts since roughly 32 BCE, I tried to see how many of these people's work (outside this show) I could call to mind. I counted about 33, or about 60 percent. A nearly meaningless datum, except that it indicates a certain level of experience, mine and others'. There are other shows with as many people represented, and I might know hardly any. It bespeaks what I call maturity, but is really just aging, theirs and mine.
The show's premise, anyway, has little real meaning — Portland is not a really a theme, it's geography. And an excuse. The subject of any work of art is of less interest, generally, than the work itself and what it says about the artist. Take, for instance, "The Custom House" by C. Michael Lewis. Lewis has an eye for the structural detail, and that building has plenty. Here he shows it as it may look if it ages well.
Sam Cady tends to put slight visual puzzles in his work, where the outline of a shape may be the outline of the canvas. Here he shows an homage to the all-time master of visual conundrums, deChirico, where what is left out matters a lot.
Regular visitors to Greenhut will be familiar with Lori Tremblay and Roy Germon, who both work there. There are three paintings by Germon here, taking the Portland landscape as an armature for color and the seductions of paint. Tremblay's little painting is a nocturnal meditation on the sky, recognizing a constellation between buildings. Marsha Donahue, a Greenhut alumna now living near Katahdin, shows three views of Portland that reflect her formidable directness.
Some pieces are Portland-based by residence. Richard Wilson's painting recounts a day in personal terms both hermetic and cryptic. Others might be includable by convenience, like Dennis Pinette, who shows one of his signature places that are ignored by others, in this case a service door in the dull side of a building. Alec Richardson's cabooses could be anywhere, as could Linden Frederick's wharf — anywhere with a railroad or a seaport, anyway.