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The Last Blog Post | Just Looking Signs Off

The Last Blog Post | Just Looking Signs Off
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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.

Self-Portrait in Green Window by Lois Dodd

Photo/Art by
Self-Portrait in Green Window by 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.

Art All Around by Jaime Gili

Art All Around by Jaime Gili

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.

Maine Labor History Mural by artist Judy Taylor

Maine Labor History Mural by Judy Taylor

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.

Tracing the Fore, a site-specific work of earth art by Shauna Gillies-Smith

Tracing the Fore, a site-specific work of earth art by Shauna Gillies-Smith

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.

EAT by Robert Indiana

EAT by Robert Indiana

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.

Sculpture by Wally Warren

Sculpture by Wally Warren

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.

Cloud Fence by Tim Clorius

Cloud Fence by Tim Clorius

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.

Edgar Allen Beem

Author:

Edgar Allen Beem

Biography:

Take a look at art in New England with Edgar Allen Beem. He’s been art critic for the Portland Independent, art critic and feature writer for Maine Times, and now is a freelance writer for Yankee, Down East, Boston Globe Magazine, The Forecaster, and Photo District News. He’s the author of Maine Art Now (1990) and Maine: The Spirit of America (2000). In 1988, he won the Manufacturers Hanover Art/World Award for Distinguished Newspaper Art Criticism for his coverage of the 1987 auction sale of Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises. Ed says, “My credo as an arts writer has long been: ‘The work of art is the search for meaning.’ I believe art is not only a form of personal expression but also a form of inquiry, every bit as much a quest for truth as scientific research.” Ed Beem’s newest book, Backyard Maine: Local Essays, has just been published by Tilbury House, Publishers, of Gardiner, Maine. It’s not about the meaning of art; it’s about the meaning of family, community, and life in general. Edgar Beem is currently at work on a new book about contemporary art in Maine to be published in the fall of 2012.
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2 Responses to The Last Blog Post | Just Looking Signs Off

  1. Daniel Kany May 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Beem is one of Maine’s champion voices for art. He’s a wit. He’s an intellectual. He’s a mensch.

    I am going to miss this blog.

  2. Carolyn Covert July 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    What a terrible loss!

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