‘CATERPILLAR HILL’ By Anne Ireland, 6 x 12 inches, at Gleason Fine Art.
Slouching toward the vernal equinox and its promises this time of year can be a challenge for even the most committed art audience. Galleries tend to hunker down for the annual Maine economic recession, and are more or less vamping until full spring. Which is OK, since they are often picking from gallery inventory, and they have some good things. One must, however, be prepared to brave the volumes of work in group shows for those things that actually fulfill expectations.
If, following an afternoon's damp, chilly slog through the galleries a disheartened feeling lingers, I suggest a restorative visit in the warm glow of the Lois Dodd show at the PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART. It is required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in art. I also suggest a visit to JUNE FITZPATRICK for the last days of the Noriko Sakanishi show.
The path through Portland galleries seems at times to resemble an archaeological dig, drilling down through modal layers that go backward in time from, say, about 2001 to maybe 1945. An artistic generation is maybe seven years, and viewers tend to gravitate toward that which engaged their attention in the first place — comfort levels vary widely. The good news about today's art world is that artists feel free to mine art history at will for styles, ideas, and modes. And viewers can stop and look where they are comfortable.
‘HAVE THE COURAGE TO LIVE’ By Melonie Bennett, gelatin-silver print, 13 by 19 inches, at PhoPa Gallery.
Or uncomfortable. Melonie Bennett has made some of my favorite photographs of country Mainers over the years, images that have the ring of truth. She recently branched out to a small-town night spot and to, of all places, a Kid Rock fan cruise. These images show a common side of Maine as well as some hard-core partying at sea. The evenings at the bar are not likely to find their way into tourist-centered publications, and the cruise resulted in a nonagenarian winning the "Miss Lucky Bitch 2012" bikini prize. "Bad Ass" is a report from some wild kingdom adventures. At PHOPA GALLERY on Washington Avenue.
SPACE GALLERY on Congress Street covers a lot of recent art-historical ground in March, surfing the decades from the '70s to more or less today. "Moon Moves," the installation by Jeffrey Kurosaki and Tara Pelletier in the gallery, uses mechanics, sound, and viewers' presence as metaphor. Britta Konau wrote about Natasha Mayers's wall of social commentary images, "World Banksters" (See "Postcards from the Conscience," February 15). Ann Buckwalter's "Gone Along Are the Animals" are post-modernist essays into the pain of identity, lying somewhere on short continuum between cartoons and ironic illustrations. Carly Glovinski's pixelated window of colored pencil ends mashes art school, digital reproduction, and Seurat.