When in MaineJune 4th - July 30th, 2022
“When In Maine…
One swims in the pond, gazes at the stars, lays amongst the moss, feels the mist of the sea, the echo of the fog horn, eats lobster with friends, and so on and so forth…
I first visited Maine for the wedding of Jim Drain and Kate McNamara and recall vividly Kate’s father toasting the bride and groom and telling us all, “don’t tell anyone you’ve been here and please don’t come back,” or something to the effect, with the good natured chuckle of that dry Northeastern humor. Naturally, we not only returned, we brought friends and family, bought a house and as our dear friend John says, we now aspire to ‘live in Maine and work everywhere else.’
This exhibition came together as a gesture of thanks for the generosity we have felt in the work of artists touched by this special place, their images enriching our experience and creating a densely layered landscape that exists as much as a memory, as it does a place. When in Maine is intended as a love note;
…to Ann, whose images of Maine resonate so deeply, there isn’t a moon I look up to that doesn’t recall her standing on her green lawn, wood easel outstretched, sweeping gooey paint over gooey paint, hour after hour. In her most recent churches, I can see the painter, overalls, bucket in tow, standing on the ladder, slapping it on… heading off, before it’s commemorated in oil, and then commemorated again, and again, and one more time, perhaps larger, perhaps smaller, each canvas stacked in front of the other.
From Ann, there is a chain, which leads first to Ms. Dodd… her light, peeking through the birch trees, spotted on the wood floor of the cabin and dotted with golden rod, iris and the like…
…it connects to Mr. Katz, not only the faces of a place, but the landscape, with time, swept more broadly, a field, punctuated with tiny yellow dots, the way flowers look when your eyes are burning from a day spent in the summer sun. And into the tangled roots of Marvin Bileck, housing treasures of the deepest wood.
In the memory of a cherished place, what makes it in, what images are kind enough to stay with us and how do artists shape those memories? When I see a scattered sea, or a forest gone wild with light, am I actually seeing what is before me or am I recalling the romantic kiss of Nicole’s dramatic vistas? A tree trunk illuminated by otherworldly light, given only for a moment, yet extended by paint, Nicole’s gift to us, the trunks sweeping inward, as if embracing.
Last summer, memory was seeing a friend appear suddenly in the brushstrokes of a painting, so simple but so distinctly him, discovering Bob Hiemstra this way, through mutual admiration and care, is this Maine? We love it, therefore we must also love each other?
Katie visiting, baking bread with my boys and making drawings in the sand of an overcast beach, reminiscing about camp, braiding bread, braiding ceramic, muscle memory carried in her fingers, but also picture memory, like a slide show or a projection that casts from the object onto the wall, re-arranging our thoughts around that which is refined; it is not the perfection of a tiffany shade, rather that of a life imbued with joy and humor and bravery.
Katherine, whose figures wade ankle deep in the fog, the pier disappearing in the distance; suspended in time without age, adrift in a sea of color, tinted by an atmospheric haze. The dark haze of Emily’s work, isolation but also potential, dense and rich and endless.
In Jim’s work, unearthing a fantastic archive of Nature’s spirit, abstracted through pattern, the work renders a kind of utopia, mostly imagined, hopeful and psychedelic, the kind of positivity we can only attribute to a place coined ‘Vacationland.’
The interior light of Jenny Brillhart, a mattress, family decamped for the winter, sun and wind billowing the gently draped shade across the window, they’ll be back, they always come back.”
– Nina Johnson
When in Maine opens to the public June 4th and will remain on view through July 30th in the Main Gallery at Nina Johnson.
Marvin Bileck (American, 1920-2005) was an accomplished artist and illustrator of children’s books, with a lifelong love of line drawing. He met his wife, the artist Emily Nelligan, while studying at Cooper Union in the 1940s. For decades, they summered together on Cranberry Island, Maine, the landscape of which can be seen in much of his work. These intensely detailed etchings and drawings, often compared with work of the Northern Renaissance, are parallels to the imaginative work he produced throughout his career as an illustrator of children’s books. Of the many books he illustrated, the 1964, Caldecott Honor winning Rain Makes Applesauce is perhaps the best known. Bileck taught for many years, beginning in 1960 at the Philadelphia College of Art, and then, from 1967-1992, at Queens College in New York. His illustrations are beloved by children and adults to this day, and his work has been widely exhibited at museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Queens Museum.
Katherine Bradford (b. 1942, New York) lives and works in New York and Maine. Her works have been exhibited at The Modern Art Museum Fort Worth, Texas; MoMA PS 1, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts; the Weatherspoon Gallery, North Carolina; and the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. She has been honored with an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work is in the permanent collections of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New York Public Library; the Wooster Art Museum, Ohio; the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; the Portland Museum of Art, Oregon; Farnsworth Museum, Maine; Smith College Museum, Massachusetts; Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and the University of Delaware.
Using common elements from her environments, Jenny Brillhart creates work concerned with the construction, process and design of medium, light, color, value and form. Brillhart, originally from New Hampshire, graduated with a BA from Smith College and an MFA in from the New York Academy of Art. She lives and works in Stonington, Maine. In 2018 Brillhart had a solo show at Kuckei + Kuckei in Berlin, Germany and in a two person exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA). Past projects include, an outdoor architectural intervention, titled Flat Prospects installed on the outside of The Miami History Museum, solo shows with Emerson Dorsch in Miami, and was included in the renowned show and published book, Room Service, organized by Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden Museum in Germany. Brillhart’s work has also been published in Ocean Drive, The McKinsey Quarterly, New American Paintings and Miami Contemporary Artists.
Over a more than 30 year career, Ann Craven has risen to become one of the most recognized and influential painters of her generation. Her works are in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Whitney, The New Museum, the ICA Miami, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and various other institutions and prestigious private collections around the world. Her exhibitions have been reviewed in The New York Times, Modern Painters, Art News, LA Times, Art in America, Artforum, Flash Art, The New Yorker and Frieze, among others.
For over fifty years, Dodd (American, b. 1927) has painted her immediate everyday surroundings at the places she has chosen to live and work – the Lower East Side, rural Mid-Coast Maine and the Delaware Water Gap. Dodd’s small, intimately-scaled paintings are almost always completed in one plein-air sitting. Her subjects include rambling New England out buildings, lush summer gardens, dried leafless plants, nocturnal moonlight skies and views through interior windows. She often returns to familiar motifs repeatedly at different times of the year with dramatically varied results. Lois Dodd studied at the Cooper Union in the late 1940s. In 1952 she was one of the five founding members of the legendary Tanager Gallery, among the first artist-run cooperative galleries in New York. Since 1954 her work has been the subject of over fifty one-person exhibitions. In 2012, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art organized a retrospective of Dodd’s work which traveled to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. In 2017 she was the subject of a monograph published by Lund Humphries with text by Faye Hirsch.
Jim Drain (b. 1975) is a multi-media artist based in Providence, Rhode Island and holds a BFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998. His work with Forcefield, a collective that merged music, performance film and installation, was active from 1996 to 2002 and was part of the Whitney Biennial in 2002. He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions including University of Florida, Gainesville; Locust Projects in Miami, Florida; Blanton Museum at the University of Texas, Austin; John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Garage in Moscow, Russia; The Pit in Los Angeles, California; Nathalie Karg Gallery in New York City; and Parker Gallery in Los Angeles, Califonia. Drain’s work is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of Art; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Rhode Island School of Design Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Drain was one of two recipients of the 2005 Baloise Prize and was recognized with artist Bhakti Baxter for creating “best public art projects in the nation” by Americans for the Arts in 2015.
A graduate of Parson’s School of Design, Bob spent years in the commercial art world. He worked first as an illustrator with work published in many magazines as well as creating work for advertising clients. When the cultural zeitgeist turned away from illustration, he turned to commercial photography, working again for magazines, advertising clients, and catalogues. In recent years, he has returned to an artistic practice. His work, simultaneously figurative and abstract, focuses on the human figure and the landscape of coastal Maine. Working mostly with oil paint and oil sticks, and sometimes gouache, the images he creates seem both familiar, and yet somehow not of a specific place, time, or person. With a unique clarity of vision through sensuous line, bold gesture and sublime color, Bob creates intriguing images that allow the viewer’s gaze to wander and linger in his atmospheric spaces. Bob’s work has been exhibited at Hopkins Wharf Gallery, North Haven, Maine, and Artemis Gallery, Northeast Harbor, Maine.
Alex Katz (b. 1927, Brooklyn, NY) is acclaimed for his iconic portraits and impressionistic landscape depictions, the now 94-year-old Katz has inspired generations of painters. Katz’s work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives and solo presentations over the course of his expansive career. His work is in the permanent collections of over one hundred museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Tate, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; el Museum Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo; and the National Galerie, Berlin. He was the 2019 Honoree at TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art and had a solo survey exhibition at the Fosun Foundation in Shanghai in 2020. Upcoming exhibitions include a solo survey at Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar, solo shows at the Albertina Museum, Vienna and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, and a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York opening in 2022.
The dark and ethereal world of Emily Nelligan’s (American, 1924-2018) charcoal drawings reveals a remarkably deep connection between artist, landscape, and medium. Although her formal artistic training, which took place at Cooper Union in the 1940s, was in painting rather than charcoal, Nelligan later switched mediums due simply to the fact that charcoal is significantly less expensive. The high contrast dreaminess and depth of her landscapes is evidence alone that she has truly mastered this challenging medium, using it to convey a specific mood and detail which would be impossible with paint. For many years, she and her husband, the artist Marvin Bileck, led a quiet, private life, alternating between living in Winsted, Connecticut, and Cranberry Island, Maine. The attachment she feels to the island is evident in her work, lovingly crafted in devotion to the land and sea. While Nelligan was long a well-loved artist among other artists in Maine, she did not receive her first full-scale exhibition until 2000, at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. She and Bileck’s work was first exhibited together at the Alexandre Gallery in 2005, in an exhibition based on their drawings of Cranberry Island.
Katie Stout is regarded as one of the leading designers of her generation, her works have been featured in T Magazine, the New York Times, Apartmento, Artforum and numerous other publications. Her works have been widely exhibited in institutions ranging from the Anderson Ranch Art Center, to the Schloss Hollenegg in Austria, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where her work is included in the permanent collection. Katie’s first solo exhibition was in Miami with Nina Johnson (then Gallery Diet) in 2015.
Nicole Wittenberg (b. 1979) lives and works in New York City. She has exhibited at Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami, FL, as well as Skarstedt Gallery, NY; Journal Gallery, NY; Acquavella, NY and Palm Beach and many others. Her works are included in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Albertina, Vienna, Austria; the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA; and others.