Welcome to the New Mill-ennial
Back in 1990, I selected an image of “Rising Cairn” by sculptor Celeste Roberge for the cover of my book Maine Art Now because it perfectly embodied the point I wanted to make with the book – that Maine art was no longer just romantic landscapes and seascapes by artists from away attracted to the picturesque nature of the state.
Celeste Roberge is a Maine native, a woman, a Franco-American, and probably the finest sculptor to come out of Maine since Louise Nevelson. Her “Rising Cairn” is essentially an heroic self-portrait in the form of a female figure made of welded steel and filled with Maine beach stone – the self as landscape.
Twenty years later, Roberge is one of the stars of the new Mill-ennial, the inaugural biennial of the Saco Museum in Saco, Maine (April 3 to June 13). The Mill-ennial features 61 works by 39 artists with ties to the industrial twin cities of Biddeford and Saco and the nearby seaside resort town of Old Orchard Beach. The biennial was juried by Saco resident Frederick Lynch, one of Maine’s finest abstract painters (Just Looking, January 27, 2010).
Celeste Roberge’s contributions to the Mill-ennial are two installations that continue and extend her conceptual investigations of North Atlantic landscapes. Roberge has worked in Maine, Nova Scotia, Scotland, and Iceland. “What I Saw on the Glacier” was inspired by a 2008 residency in Reykjavik and takes the form of digital images of blue ink drawings laid upon the floor like a rug and surrounded by 300 colorless cut glass objects – candlesticks, vases, candy dishes, and goblets as domestic equivalents of ice. “Ocean Floor” pairs 64 images of the North Atlantic with 32 cast-iron frying pans. Both works will be installed at the North Dam Mill Project Space just across the Saco River from the Saco Museum in Biddeford.
Only a few of the other artists selected for the Mill-ennial are familiar to me, among them painter Susan Amons, papermaker Gayle Fitzpatrick, ceramist Meryl Ruth, and collage artist Diane Bowie Zaitlin. Many of the participants appear to be emerging artists, befitting the discovery role of a juried biennial at a museum that is itself emerging as an important contemporary art venue.
The Mill-ennial field also includes Nick Anagnostis, Susan Barnes, Wendy Barrett, Melissa Bear, Peter Bennett, Christy Bergland, Pat Campbell, Donna Caron, Michele Caron, Sara Chadbourne, Sally Orth Chandler, Tammy Charles, Laura Lee Dobson, Laura Dunn, Rachael Eastman, Tanya Fletcher, Omer Gagnon, Sarah Gorham, Rick Green, George Hughes, Pamela Johnson, Kathy Angel Lee, Diann L. Libby, Anna Low, Robin Puleio, Deborah Randall, Cheryl Rau, Kelly Sue Rioux, Nancy Bell Scott, Noel Squires, William T. Stewart, Nora Tryon, B. Andrew Valliere, and Anastasia Weigle.
[Saco Museum, 371 Main St., Saco ME, 207-283-3861]