Paul J. Luise's 1975 photograph of Old Port artists is included in a Maine Arts Journal essay by Bill Barry on the roots of the Maine art scene. Standing: Norman Thomas, Jon Legere, Jane Wray, Robert Drinon, Michael Lewis, Howard Clifford, Robert Laveault, Joseph Cousins, Normand St. Pierre and Edy Bishop-Bubier. Seated: Ellsworth Greene, Karen Osborne, Lenny Hatch, Karen Marchetti, Jennifer Lord Gilman and Wende Legere. (Courtesy Paul J. Luise)
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With museums, galleries and libraries all closed for the pandemic, you may need to get your visual arts stimulus online. You can find museum and gallery websites aplenty, but there are a lot of other virtual resources, too.

The Union of Maine Visual Artists’ Maine Arts Journal, for example, is a lively online quarterly that features reviews, interviews, and both written and visual essays focused on art in Maine. Each issue is organized around a broad theme such as politics, sketchbooks, appropriation and sanctuary, but the content is very diverse within the thematic unity.

One of my favorite recent pieces in Maine Arts Journal is historian William David Barry’s essay on the roots of the contemporary Maine art scene in the Winter 2020 issue. Barry expertly surveys what was happening in Maine between 1945 and 1979 and his essay is illustrated with some wonderful photographs such as Paul J. Luise’s 1975 group portrait of Old Port artists.

The Chart is a Portland-based art journal edited by Maine College of Art graduate Jenna Crowder. Founded in 2015, it describes itself as “slow publishing from the edge of the continent,” meaning the journal does not enforce any strict deadlines such that new pieces appear when they are ready to do so. 

Charlie Hewitt with Jim Kempner in a Madness of Art screenshot.

The Chart has strong Maine College of Art connections, a lot of Maine contributors and a commitment to queer and trans artists, artists of color and emerging artists. It also comes out in an annual Anthology and sponsors a lecture series.

“The Chart grew out of a desire to kickstart conversations of the art scene in Maine,” Crowder said. 

Boston-based Art New England has been around for 40 years and publishes six issues a year both online and in print. ANE regularly features art from Maine, placing it in a larger regional context. The March/April issue, for example, contains a piece on Rockland artist Kim Bernard, a review of an exhibition at Bates College by Maine writer Carl Little and a profile of Portland artist Devon Kelley-Yurdin in the lead article, “10 Emerging New England Artists.”

My go-to source for all things Boston and New England arts, however, is Greg Cook’s Wonderland. Cook, who lives in Malden, is a cartoonist, critic, blogger, art info aggregator, parade aficionado and one-man force on the regional art scene. He used to publish The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research and organized the New England Art Awards. Not to know his Wonderland is to miss something special.

Another special online production is The Madness of Art, a series of seven-minute comic shorts starring New York art dealer Jim Kempner and produced by Maine artist Charlie Hewitt. In six seasons and scores of episodes of The Madness of Art, Kempner and Hewitt ask, “What’s so funny about the art world?” The answer is, “plenty.”

Kempner plays himself as a kind of Woody Allen-ish Chelsea art dealer schmuck, blowing deals and generally making a fool of himself in the pursuit of fame and fortune. His gallery has Maine connections in Hewitt, Greg Parker and Randy Regier. As an antidote to the preciousness of the New York art world The Madness of Art really can’t be beat. 

Two of the best and most serious online art journals are Hyperallergic and The Brooklyn Rail. Most of the artists I know read one or both. Carl Little frequently writes about art in Maine for Hyperallergic and I also check out the site to read art writings by poet John Yau. Hyperallergic was founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Veken Gueyikian and Hrag Vartanian and now gets over one million visits monthly.

The Brooklyn Rail, founded in 2000, has become the paper of record for the New York art world and there are often writings by and about Maine artists. The March 2020 issue, for example, contains essays on walking as art by Portland writers Jenna Crowder and Julie Poitras Santos.

Crowder and Santos, in addition to writing for The Chart, are also involved with Common Field, “a national network of independent visual arts organizations and organizers.” Nat May, former director of SPACE Gallery in Portland and director of the Hewnoaks Artist Colony in Lovell, is a co-founder of Common Field, giving Maine yet another real connection to the abstract realm of art ideas and images.

Edgar Allen Beem has written about art in Maine since 1978.

Quick links

These online resources, along with museum, gallery and individual artist websites, provide electronic access to the second life of art:

• Maine Arts Journal: http://maineartsjournal.com/ 

• The Chart: https://thechart.me/ 

• Greg Cook’s Wonderland: https://gregcookland.com/wonderland/

• Art New England: https://artnewengland.com/

• The Madness of Art: https://www.themadnessofart.com/ 

• Hyperallergic: https://hyperallergic.com/ 

• The Brooklyn Rail: https://brooklynrail.org/ 

• Common Field: https://www.commonfield.org/