‘Acquired Symbols’ stirs the soul

Sat, 07/03/2021 - 12:15pm

Story Location:
15 Warren Street
Wiscasset, ME 04578
United States

    Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset should definitely be on your list of galleries to visit – and by July 17. Yes, there is a deadline. The current show, “Acquired Symbols,” is an experience. The show features paintings by John Lorence and some of the artist’s friends and former students.

    The former students in the show are Patrick Plourde, Jorge Pena, Peter Haller and Ellen Gutenkunst; the friends are Clara Cohan, Elliott Barowitz, Fellice Boucher, Camille Cole, Sara Cox and Teresa Sullivan.

    The 50 works in this show, be it a painting, fiber art, sculpture, collage, pottery, or mixed media, depict either spiritual or cultural ideas and beliefs in symbolic form. From ancient civilizations to modern times, symbolism is an evolving language all its own.

    The symbolism of colors stirs the psyche in subliminal ways affecting us physically and emotionally; red is blood, heat, anger, energy; green is nature, money, life; white is purity, the moon, stars, innocence; black can be everything and nothing, the unknown, the evening sky, mourning.

    Symbolism in art adds depth and meaning. In this show, both ancient and modern symbols take us on a journey through the human experience.

    Standing before Lorence’s “Sycamores Near the Chateau #826,” I was taken below the surface of the trees – roots grounding them deep in the earth. The colored shapes among the roots reminded me of winter quarters for woodland creatures; through other shapes below I envisioned pools of water – and sycamores, like willow trees (and others) grow best in wet areas.

    This painting was a joy to become part of. It encourages any viewer to look beyond and, in this case, below, the surface.

    Haller’s “Date Night” is a short, black dress made of three or four different black materials. The short black dress is iconic dating back to the Roaring Twenties. Most women have at least one in their closet. Why? Because a little black dress makes a woman feel cool, confident, sexy. This black dress has a crocheted lace neckline, the bodice starts out with black lace moving into a jersey-like fabric. A fake fur wrap is used around the hip area (an interesting choice) with a pleated black and brown plaid bottom. No, it’s not what you think of for a date night as a whole, but each fabric is representational of what women have most likely worn during different time periods.

    “Arms Around It” is a sculpture by Cohan, who just happened to stop by the gallery while I was there –  and serendipitous it was. I have to say it is my favorite piece in this show. The energy emanating from it gives one chills. An ancestral being’s arms are outstretched as it embraces orbiting planets, movement is created through the use of Jesso. And, talk about movement … the back of the sculpture is clearly the universe, meteors, spirits – or are they souls? – moving through space. In this view, the ancestral being appears to be in flight with these objects …they are one.

    This wood sculpture is all wood, oil stained, textured with Jesso. Cohan has also had some cast in bronze; one woman who bought it bronzed was thinking of using it for her gravestone!

    Pena and Haller were the major forces behind this uncurated show, in which, as Cohan said, “All of the pieces talk to each other.”

    And I say each piece will speak to you - as it has and continues to do.

    "This show is attracting visitors from throughout the state – the highest attendance we've ever had,” Maine Art Gallery Manager Kerry Hadley said. “The buzz and excitement around it is palpable. The quality has attracted articles in publications such as the Register/Wiscasset Newspaper and the Portland Press Herald. We love reading patrons' delighted comments in our visitors book. Kudos to curators Jorge Pena and Peter Haller!”

    The hours of the gallery, at 15 Warren St., are Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.maineartgallerywiscasset.org or call 687-8143.