The University of Maine at Presque Isle's Reed Fine Art Gallery will present Crafted: Fine Craft of Northern Maine, curated by UMPI Assistant Professor of Fine Art Hyrum Benson. The exhibition opens Dec. 3 and runs through Jan. 5, 2013. The public is invited to join the curator and featured artists for an opening reception on Dec. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m., which is being held in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk.
Crafted honors excellence in Fine Craft being produced here in northern Maine. Benson, who also serves as the Regional Coordinator of the Maine Craft Association, has selected to feature the works of Terry Kelly, furniture maker; Edith Greiner, weaver and fibers artist; Heather Bessey, potter; Jeremy Frey, basket maker; Russell Mount, wood carver; and Mary Sanipass, basket maker.
"I am excited about the caliber of work being exhibited and the hard work that these individuals demonstrate in the works that they have created," Benson said. "I'm also pleased to be able to represent the MCA for the County and hope that through this show and other events that the appreciation for craft will increase."
Fine Craft in northern Maine is rich with historical context but often under-represented in the gallery circuit. With the artists represented in this exhibition, many did not begin creating craft objects to make a living from them. Instead, it was more about the enjoyment of "making."
Russell Mount merges his love for bird watching with the creation of bird decoys and, furthermore, his "cigar birds" which are featured in the Reed. Mount, of Castle Hill, has been carving decoys for many years and has had his works on display around the country. Mount cites the rural setting as a powerful influence in his work.
Heather Bessey, potter, has had a 40-year interest in clay. She states, "In 1972, I began my journey in clay. I was studying chemistry when someone passing by saw my chemistry book and asked if I could help with a glaze formulation. He owned an old barn, four kick wheels and a gas kiln. Having grown up digging clay from the bottom of the lake and air drying my creations, I was intrigued. In no time, I was hooked on clay." Bessey now has her own studio in Ashland where she creates her work.
Mapleton artist Terry Kelly has been making furniture for 12 years. He is self-taught and has quickly become a rising star in the Maine craft community. His most recent piece is a commission for the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. His Farnsworth bench will debut in the Reed exhibition before it is permanently placed at the Farnsworth Museum.
Kelly's bench is not the only debut that will be featured in the exhibition. A basket made by Jeremy Frey, award winning Passamaquoddy community member, is UMPI's most recent acquisition. Acquired in honor of the service of recent UMPI President Donald Zillman and his wife, Linda, the basket will be a keystone of the exhibition before it makes its way to a permanent display on campus. Frey is a United States Artist Fellow. The highly prestigious $50,000 award is given for the caliber and impact of the selected artist's work. Frey is widely regarded as one of the leading basket makers in the nation.
Edith Greiner, art teacher for MSAD 20 in Fort Fairfield, recently celebrated 40 years of weaving in Aroostook County. She did her first weaving when she was in kindergarten and built her first loom in the closet of her Philadelphia flat during her years as a student at Tyler School of Fine Arts. Since then, she has filled her studio with five looms and has woven everything from recycled denim rugs to wearable pieces made with luxury fibers, such as silk, mohair and alpaca.
Mary Sanipass is a nationally acclaimed basket maker and photographer. Her work has been shown in the Smithsonian Institute and the Heard Museum in Phoenix. She and her husband Donald, who passed away in 2007, were subjects in the 1985 national documentary film Our Lives in Our Hands, which examines the traditional Native American craft of split ash basket making as a means of economic and cultural survival. In 2004, they were honored with a Community Spirit Award by the First People's Fund, a national nonprofit organization committed to supporting the creative work of American Indian artists.
Hyrum Benson, a ceramics artist in his own right, is also presenting his own work. Benson relocated to the County last year to teach at UMPI. Originally from Idaho, Benson creates functional vessels inspired from architectural structure. "I really enjoy the physical process of working with clay, being able to manipulate a plastic soft piece of earth and transform it into a stone-like vessel that serves as a container to transport and house a liquid; similar to the architectural and engineering structures that I look at; they serve as places of transport or containment."
Heather Sincavage, Reed Gallery Director, stated, "This exhibition is a testament to the quality of art work produced here in northern Maine. We are excited to be a venue to show off our talent and lead the community in respecting the handmade object. We hope you will join us for our opening reception where you can meet these artists on December 5."
Crafted: an Exhibition of Fine Craft in Northern Maine will have an Opening Reception Dec. 7 from 5-7 p.m. The artists will be present for a short gallery talk at 5:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.