As Maine comes out of its pandemic shell, art galleries and museums are once again open to the public.
Sadly but fittingly, one of the artists being prominently featured this summer is the late David Driskell, the distinguished African-American artist and scholar who died last year of COVID-19.
Driskell, a long-time summer resident of Falmouth, will receive a major retrospective, “David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History,” at the Portland Museum of Art (June 19-Sept. 12) and a solo show, “David Driskell: Icons,” at Greenhut Galleries in Portland (Aug. 5-28).
The past year has marked several major changes on the Maine art scene, among them the death of artist and gallerist Duane Paluska, who operated Icon Contemporary Art in Brunswick for more than 30 years; painter Marcia Donahue, who brought fine art to the North Country, closed North Light Gallery in Millinocket after 17 years, and Jean Briggs turned Mast Cove Gallery over after 40 years to artist Bob Bryant.
Also, Mary Harding retired after 25 years at George Marshall Store Gallery in York; Sharon Corwin left Colby College after 13 years to become the CEO of the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago, and Suzette McAvoy, who saved the Center for Maine Contemporary Art from mission-creep collapse, retired after 11 years on the job.
Art is one of the riches Maine possesses in greater quality and quantity than most states. Here are just a few highlights of the upcoming summer 2021 season.
• Mast Cove Gallery (2 Mast Cove Lane, Kennebunkport, 253-227-2066, mastcovegallery.com) has added several new artists as marine painter Bob Bryant takes over for Jean Briggs. But one of the summer highlights will be Bryant’s own art. Bryant painted actor Patrick Dempsey’s race cars and giclée inkjet prints of his paintings will be sold to benefit Dempsey’s cancer treatment center.
• Cove Street Arts (71 Cove St., Portland, 207-808-8911, covestreetarts.com) may well be the largest commercial art gallery in Maine. Owners John Danos and Kelley Lehr also own Greenhut Galleries in Portland’s Old Port. Cove Street Arts always has several shows going at once, but one of the summer highlights is “Maurice Freedman: Rising Fog” (May 27-July 24). Freedman (1904-1985) was a Boston native who worked in New York and often painted Maine in a bold, colorful Expressionist style that is still with us today.
• Greenhut Galleries (146 Middle St., Portland, 207-772-2693, greenhutgalleries.com) is a mainstream contemporary art gallery that features many popular Maine painters. The gallery will honor David Driskell upon his passing.
• Grant Wahlquist Gallery (30 City Center, 2nd Floor, Portland, 207-245-5731, grantwahlquist.com) is one of the few Maine galleries that regularly features artists from away. This summer, Grant Wahlquist will feature Henry Paul Broyard (July 7-Aug. 21), a Brooklyn artist whose mixed media paintings of interiors recollect the California light of his youth in a manner reminiscent of Henri Matisse and David Hockey.
• Elizabeth Moss Galleries (251 US Route 1, Falmouth, 207-781-2620, elizabethmossgalleries.com) has succeeded in bringing together popular art and abstract art in a suburban shopping center. This summer’s big show is “Maine Masters of Modernism” (July 1-Aug. 20), an exhibition of work by Michael Mulhern, Brigitte Keller, Robert Neumann, Lynne Drexler, and, yes, David Driskell. The big news, however, is that Elizabeth Moss will open a second gallery on Portland’s eastern waterfront late this summer to focus on less commercial art.
• Caldbeck Gallery (12 Elm St., Rockland, 207-594-5935, caldbeck.com) has been one of Maine’s best contemporary galleries since it opened in 1982. Known for two-artist shows with such artists as Cecily Aikman, Alan Bray, Lois Dodd, and Nancy Wissemann-Widrig, Caldbeck this summer will feature Dodd, Elizabeth O’Reilly, Frederic Kellogg, Susan Williams, and Abraham Storer.
• Dowling Walsh Gallery (365 Main St., Rockland, 207-596-0084, dowlingwalsh.com) has joined Caldbeck, the Farnsworth Art Museum, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art to make downtown Rockland Maine’s art mecca. The gallery is known for showing the Wyeth school of painters, including Jamie Wyeth and Bo Bartlett, and for featuring fine art photographers such as Cig Harvey and Joyce Tenneson. This summer, I’d recommend visiting Dowling Walsh to see work by the great Color Field painter Kenneth Noland (July 2-Aug. 28), who summered in Maine, and one of Maine’s best young emerging painters, Tessa Greene O’Brien (July 2-31).
• Gleason Fine Art (31 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor, 207-633-6849, gleasonfineart.com) has been a mainstay of the Midcoast art scene since 1985. Dennis and Martha Gleason show 19th- and 20th-century art and contemporary art. Two of their best summer shows figure to be brushy sailboats by Henry Isaacs (now thru Aug. 4) and more hard-edge cars and trucks by Kevin Beers (June 25-July 21).
• Courthouse Gallery Fine Art (6 Court St., Ellsworth, 207-667-6611, courthousegallery.com) shows the work of more than 50 Maine artists past and present, from Gretna Campbell and John Heliker to Susan Amons and Charlie Hewitt. This summer’s main attractions are shows of primitive coastal imagery by William Irvine and coastal abstractions by Ragna Bruno (both July 12-Aug. 6). Irvine was born in Scotland and Bruno in Spain, so they bring exotic sensibilities to the Maine familiar.
• Turtle Gallery (61 North Deer Isle Road, Deer Isle, 207-348-9977, theturtlegallery.com) has been going strong since 1982 showing the works of some 90 artists, many with a strong crafts component befitting a barn gallery not far from the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Summer’s good bets are artist’s books by Rebecca Goodale, and mysterious prints, paintings, and sculptures by Treacy Ziegler (July and August), and ceramic works by Lynn Duryea and Sequoia Miller (June-September).
• Ogunquit Museum of American Art (543 Shore Road, Ogunquit, 207-646-4909, ogunquitmuseum.org) is an artifact of the art colony Ogunquit once was, a seaside estate dedicated to the art and artists of the resort community. Always worth a summer visit, the Ogunquit Museum this season has mounted “Remember the Ladies: Women Painters in Ogunquit, 1900-1950” (through July 16), a show featuring artists such as Peggy Bacon, Anne Carleton, Gertrude Fiske, and Mabel May Woodward.
• Portland Museum of Art (7 Congress St., Portland, 207-775-6148, portlandmuseum.org) will feature its David Driskell retrospective as well as “Small Wonders: Rethinking American Arts and Crafts, 1880-1920,” an exhibition that pays special attention to the place of female artists in pottery, painting, and photography.
• Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (522 Congress St., Portland, 207-699-5029, meca.edu) presents “Double Trouble” (July 8-Sept. 17), a provocative exhibition focused on body image and identity in the art of Sonia Almeida, Bianca Beck, Sascha Braunig, Lucy Kim, and Joiri Minaya.
• Bowdoin College Museum of Art (245 Maine St., Brunswick, 207-725-3275, bowdoin.edu/art-museum) possesses a depth of antiquities unmatched in Maine and re-opens on July 1 with a pair of exhibitions highlighting long-term loans from the Wyvern Collection, a world-class collection of Medieval and Renaissance sculpture and metalwork.
• Bates College Museum of Art (75 Russell St., Lewiston, 207-786-6158, bates.edu/museum) celebrates one of its own with “Carl Benton Straub: His Enduring Legacy” (June 11-Oct. 16). Carl Straub (1936-2019) was dean emeritus at Bates and created a fund that enables the museum to purchase art that “look critically at our environment and landscape.”
• Colby College Museum of Art (5600 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, 207-859-5600, colby.edu/museum) has expanded over the years to become Maine’s premier art museum and one of the best small college art museums in the country. Always lots to see at Colby, but special attention should be paid to “Inside Out: The Prints of Mary Cassatt” (June 17-Nov. 1) and “Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine” (July 20-Jan. 9, 2022), a retrospective of the work of Thompson (1937-1966), an African-American figurative painter noted for his bold colors and appropriation of Old Master subjects.
• Center for Maine Contemporary Art (21 Winter St., Rockland, 207-701-5005, cmcanow.org) is Maine’s most important venue for new art. One of the best CMCA shows this summer will be “David Row: The Shape of Things” (through Sept. 12), an exhibition of abstract-shaped canvases by Portland native Row, long an established New York artist and summer resident of Cushing Island.
• Monhegan Museum of Art & History (1 Lighthouse Hill Road, Monhegan Island, 207-596-7003, monheganmuseum.org) preserves and promotes the culture of Maine’s monumental little rock in the sea, Monhegan Island. This summer it will do so with “Cape Ann and Monhegan Island Vistas: Contrasted New England Art Colonies” (July 1-Sept. 30), a show featuring artists who worked in both colonies, among them Leon Kroll, Hayley Lever, James Fitzgerald, and Don Stone.
• Farnsworth Art Museum (16 Museum St., Rockland, 207-596-6457, farnsworthmuseum.org) is known as Maine’s primary repository of Wyeth family art and this summer will add to that provenance with “Betsy’s Gifts” (through March 27, 2022), a selection of art given to the museum by Andrew Wyeth’s wife. Also of note are “Robert Indiana: The Hartley Elegies” (through Jan. 2, 2022), an exhibition of prints Pop artist Indiana made to pay homage to Marsden Hartley, and “Women of Vision” (also through Jan. 2), a show and event series celebrating the contributions of artists such as Katherine Bradford, Louise Nevelson, and Marguerite Zorach, as well as art patrons such as Elizabeth Noyce, Linda Bean, and Phyllis Wyeth.
• Zillman Art Museum (40 Harlow St., Bangor, 207-581-3300, zam.umaine.edu) is the new name (as of a year ago) of the University of Maine Museum of Art. With a $1.3 million gift from Linda and Donald Zillman, the museum is adding five third-floor galleries to its downtown Bangor complex. The museum is eclectic and this summer’s shows are no exception, featuring solo shows by two women: Boston artist Emily Eveleth and San Francisco artist Sidney Russell (both Aug. 17-Dec. 30).
Edgar Allen Beem has been writing about art in Maine since 1978.