Greece may not be the recipient of the most fortunate news lately, but a remarkable new collaborative venture by local artists might send a little sunshine to the troubled Mediterranean land.
'ICARUS' Photographer Tonee Harbert is sending this image, evoking Greek mythology, to an exhibit of Portland art in Greece.
In an exhibit preview for a remarkable cultural endeavor, SPACE Gallery opens "Portes: an International Exhibit of Maine Artists in Greece," in its Annex this week, featuring works on paper by 50 of celebrated and emerging contemporary local artists. The show remains open through April 7 before exhibiting in June at the Public Theater in Mytilene, the capital of the Grecian isle of Lesvos and one of Portland's official Sister Cities.
These ambitious efforts were headed by Tetra Projects, a new collaborative arts model founded by local artist Jeff Badger, who teaches in and heads the art department at Southern Maine Community College. He worked with the Hellenic Society of Maine and the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance to produce the exchange. Badger curated the exhibit himself, choosing works from the artists' collections in about half the cases and assigning works that fit the project in the other. "I tried to create the experience of a visitor walking through Portland's galleries and imagine what they might see," he says.
For ease in shipping (and economy of cost) the works are not large, and all are flat. Despite this understandable lack of representation from some of Portland's installation-based artists, it's a worthy showcase of some of the most active people in local visual arts. Highlights include a gorgeous painting by Tim Clorius (who won Best Painting Exhibition honors in the 2011 New England Art Awards), a lovely photograph by Tonee Harbert, and a thematically apt geometrical drawing by Clint Fulkerson.
Mytilene and Portland were granted official Sister City status in 2003, and it's true that the two share distinct cultural similarities. Mytilene is a northeast port city founded early in Greece's national history. Its economy relies on tourism and natural resources, and has strong academic and artistic foundations. It's also the paternal ancestral home of Senator Olympia Snowe (and, incidentally, the maternal one of this writer). "Portes" marks the first occasion of artistic exchange since Portland hosted an exhibit and residency by Greek weaver Sophia Tata in 2003. The city of Portland will publicly dedicate an oak display case commemorating the exhibit and relationship at City Hall on April 3 at 3 pm.
Once "Portes" makes its international rounds, Badger hopes to produce similar exhibitions with Portland's other Sister Cities — namely Arkanghelsk, Russia; Cap-Haïtien, Haiti; and Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan, the latter of which he plans to realize in 2014 with help from the Japan America Society of Maine. In the meantime, he's raising funds to pay for travel, installation, and on-location publicity for "Portes" via Kickstarter until April 17, where donors can secure such swag as a full-color copies of the Greek exhibit catalog.