Portland galleries feature fresh faces, lost art, found spaces

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PORTLAND — The city’s First Friday Art Walk on May 1 will include a wide range of artists, mediums and locations likely to please seasoned art afficionados as well as first-timers.

While there are several shows opening this Friday,  “Dux Femina Facti: A Woman is in Charge,” “Open Spaces, Maine,” and the Casco Bay Frames & Gallery Employee Art Show are among those that shouldn’t be missed.

‘A Woman is in Charge’

The Maine Women’s Fund has much to celebrate this weekend. In honor of its 20th anniversary of grant-making, totaling $1.5 million, and the launch of its Economic Security Initiative to help build financial security for women in Maine, the nonprofit group has lined up a variety of events May 1-3 honoring women and girls.

The kick-off event on Friday is an opening reception at Susan Maasch Fine Art. The fund has collaborated with gallery owner Susan Maasch to present “Dux Femina Facti: A Woman is in Charge,” a new show featuring work exclusively produced by women, curated by women and with women serving primarily as the subject or inspiration of the artwork.

“This is rare, even today, to have a show solely made up of female artists and female curators,” Maasch said.

She said she embraced the premise of the fund’s new economic security initiative, using it to inform the gallery’s thoughtful selection of artwork:  “We wanted to showcase emerging artists and also bring them together with some of the experienced, later-in-career women artists.”

“It was rewarding for me to be able to give new artists a chance to grow their resume,” said Maasch, who was pleased to report that two mixed media pieces she selected, by recent art school graduate Kelly Sue Rioux of Portland, have already sold. The gallery also chose to include smaller, affordable pieces in the hopes of attracting women art collectors as well. 

The show includes a range of artistic mediums and styles, including photography, mixed media, collage, sculpture and several different types of painting. A notable inclusion is a collection of photos by Keliy Anderson-Staley. The artist used a historic “wet plate” technique in a series of portraits of diverse women living in the Bronx, N.Y.

The reception is open to the public on Friday, May 1, from 6-8 p.m.. The show will continue through May 31 at  Susan Maasch Fine Art, 29 Forest Ave. The gallery is moving to 576 Congress St. on June 1 and will continue the “Dux Femina Facti” show at its new location through June.

For more information on other events of the Maine Women’s Fund celebratory weekend, visit mainewomensfund.org/anniversary.html.

‘Open Spaces, Maine’

Three local landscape painters are taking an unorthodox approach in presenting their first group show to the public.

Leslie Anderson of Portland, Ann Mohnkern of Yarmouth and Louisa Wickard of Cumberland are holding their show, “Open Spaces, Maine,” in an urban “open space” – a vacant downtown office at 16 Casco St..

The impetus of this impromptu gallery was Luke Reinhard, a financial adviser with Ameriprise, who had moved his first-floor office at 16 Casco St. to the second floor, leaving it vacant a few months ago. He said the lagging economy has taken its toll on downtown Portland, with increased vandalism and graffiti, and 16 Casco St. hasn’t been immune.

Reinhard said he knew that Leslie was hoping to put together an art show. He suggested the first-floor space as a location and spoke with the owner. After the artists appeased the owner’s worries about liability and damages, he agreed to let them use the office for two weeks for free.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Reinhard, who is also an art collector. Ameriprise will also be conducting a concurrent reception for its customers at its second floor office the night of the opening, with a talk on the do’s and don’ts of art collecting by Bruce Brown, former curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport.

Anderson said she hopes that more landlords or building owners will embrace this novel approach.

“This is such a great idea for Portland,” she said. “There are so many artists in Maine who would love for the community to see their work and Portland has so much vacant space. The boarded up, abandoned buildings are just awful. Think of how Exchange St. could look right now if other building owners did this?”

The show will run from May 1-16, with the opening reception from 5-8 p.m., May 1.

Employee Art Show

Casco Bay Frames & Gallery is holding its 10th annual Employee Art Show, showcasing the work of four artists and co-workers. An opening reception will take place from 5-8 p.m. on May 1.

Owner Tony Cox said the tradition was started by his in-laws, the former owners, to boost morale and introduce their customers to a different side of their designers and framers. Over the years, it has evolved into an event that is a source of pride for everyone involved.

“I’m so proud of their talent,” said Cox, who has both experienced and emerging artists on staff. He sais he has pulled out all the stops to promote the art show and entice art-seekers to travel off the peninsula.

“We are a gem in a strip mall,” he said, “and when people walk in for the first time, they go ‘wow, I didn’t even realize what this place was.'”

Cox fears picture framing is becoming a lost art in the face of quicker, cheaper framing options produced in factories and sold in chain art supply stores. “We have over 1,500 different frame options available. Each customized frame is built by us on-site,” he said. “Picture framing is an art, a skill, and our employees are true artisans.”

Casco Bay Frames and Gallery is in the Hannaford Plaza, 295 Forest Ave. The show will run through May 31.

Heather Gunther can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or hgunther@theforecaster.net

firstfri 015.jpgGallery owner Susan Maasch presents “Dux Femina Facti: A Woman is In Charge,”  at Susan Maasch Fine Art, 29 Forest Ave., Portland. The opening reception and kick-off event for the Maine Women’s Fund 20th anniversary celebratory weekend opens to the public at 6 p.m., May 1. The show will be on view through May 31. (Gunther photo)
firstfri 004.jpg“Open Spaces, Maine,” the first group show of landscape painters Leslie Anderson, left, Ann Mohnkern and Louisa Wickard, will be held in an urban open space – a vacant office – at 16 Casco St., Portland. The opening reception starts at 5 p.m., May 1, and the exhibit will run through May 16. (Gunther photo)

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Michael Fraser.jpg“Full Moon Over Casco Bay,” oil on paper by Michael Fraser of Casco Bay Frames & Gallery.