The Last Blog Post | Just Looking Signs Off
This will be the final posting of Just Looking, the New England art blog I have been writing here on the Yankee website since 2008. I will miss the opportunity to share visual experiences online, but I will continue to contribute to Yankee Magazine as I have since 1982.
I first began writing about art in 1978, reviewing local exhibitions for The Portland Independent, a short-lived alternative weekly. Those reviews came to the attention of Maine Times, a statewide weekly, and I became a feature writer and art critic for Maine Times in 1981. Around 1991, I wrote a series of artist profiles for Yankee that are still among my favorite arts pieces, profiles of painters such as George Nick, Wolf Kahn, Janet Fish and Lois Dodd.
In 1990, a selection of my art reviews, essays and artist profiles were collected in the book Maine Art Now, a lousy name since Now now means the 1980s. A sequel to that book, entitled Maine Art New, has been written by me and a dozen other art writers and, though my Just Looking bio promised it in the fall of 2012, we hope it will finally be out by the end of this year.
One of the first Just Looking blogs I posted was about other art blogs, the best being New England Journal of Aesthetic research, a high falutin’ name for a very personable column by Boston Phoenix critic Greg Cook, one of the contributors to Maine Art New. Lately, Greg has been too busy with a new job at WGBH to post daily as he did for years, but I still enjoy his irregular blogs, which as often as not have to do with parades and festivals and other colorful events in the public life of the region.
One of the things I learned from Greg Cook is the fun of taking photographs of art in public places. My digital snapshots are not high resolution enough to be used in print, but I did get a kick out of posting them online on Just Looking, where they reproduce quite nicely. So, for my final blog, I decided to share a few of the snapshots I have taken in the past year or so, just as a way of calling attention to how much art there is in our everyday environment, if we are just alert enough to see it.
Here, for instance, is one of many pictures I have taken of Jaime Gili’s Art All Around, abstract designs painted on oil tanks in South Portland in an effort by the Maine Center for Creativity to brand Maine as an art venue. Since you can really only see the oil tanks from the highway, I figure the best way to photograph them is from the car.
The most celebrated and controversial work of public art in recent years has been the Maine Labor History Mural by artist Judy Taylor. The labor mural became a cause célèbre for artists and workers when Maine Gov. Paul LePage ordered it removed from the Maine Department of Labor as being too pro-labor. I shot these pictures when it was re-installed at the Maine State Museum.
Close behind the labor mural in terms of controversy was Tracing the Fore, a site-specific work of earth art designed by Boston landscape designer Shauna Gillies-Smith for Portland’s Boothby Square. Tracing the Fore became an Old Port eyesore when the grass failed to grown as anticipated. Eventually, the ill-fated work of public art was removed.
Robert Indiana’s EAT is not as famous as his iconic LOVE, but I love the way it animates downtown Rockland when the Farnsworth Art Museum installs it on its roof each summer. Originally designed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, EAT is one of Indiana’s finest word art images. It was inspired by the fact that “eat” was the last word his mother spoke.
Wally Warren up in rural Ripley is an artist who recycles junk and debris from the local dump into fanciful cityscapes and he has transformed his entire yard into a colorful roadside attraction of whirligigs and found sculpture. I visited Wally to write a profile for Maine Art New, but I also shared his imaginative creations on Just Looking.
For more subtle art in public places, I love Tim Clorius’ Cloud Fence down in Portland gritty Bayside neighborhood. Tim is both a fine artist and a graffiti artist. With Cloud Fence he seemed to appropriate his fine art imagery for public art purposes.
If you take a look around your own city or town, you will likely find that art is everywhere if you just open your eyes and your mind enough to recognize and appreciate it. Keep looking.