The Art Forecast: Women on the land promoting girls on the coast

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FREEPORT — Coastal Studies for Girls, a new semester-long residential marine and environmental sciences program for sophomores in high school, plans to open on Wolfe’s Neck Road in Freeport in February with 15 students. As a “friends-raiser,” the innovative science school is hosting a series of weekend open houses featuring an exhibition of “Maine Women: Living on the Land,” an extensive black-and-white photo essay by Emerson College professor and Maine summer resident Lauren Shaw.

Shaw’s “Maine Women” was seen all over the state in 2006, but if you didn’t get a chance to see it three years ago, it’s worth a trip to Freeport both to see the exhibition and to see what CSG is up to.

When Shaw, a friend of a CSG board member, heard about the new 16-week science school, she became “CSG’s biggest fan” and realized immediately that photographs of pioneering Maine women on the land promoting a pioneering girls’ school on the Maine coast was a neat conceptual package.

“Maine Women: Living on the Land” features 10 Maine women with direct connections to farming and forestry. Each woman is presented in a portrait, a series of landscapes and a triptych mounted on a topographical map of the land where she lives and farms. The women range from the well-known to the unknown, each celebrated reverentially in handsomely framed black-and-white photographs.

The featured women are Avena Botanicals founder Deb Soule, an herb gardener in Rockport; Raquel “Rikki” Boehmer of Monhegan and Falmouth, author of “A Foraging Vacation: Edibles from Maine’s Sea and Shore”; Jenny Cirone, a sheep farmer and lobster fisher from South Addison: organic gardener Betty Weir of Cumberland; Micmac Chief Mary Philbrook of Presque Isle; Leitha Kelly of Allagash, whose family has been working in the Maine woods for six generations; Sylvia Holbrook, a New Vineyard farmer who made butter for more than 60 years; Carol Varin, a blueberry farmer in Beddington; Jackie Lundeen, a potato farmer from Mars Hills; and Gail Edwards, who grows medicinal herbs in Athens.

What “Maine Women: Living on the Land” conjures visually is both a powerful sense of place and the spirit of strong, independent womanhood, a fitting group portrait for a state where three of the four Congressional representatives, the speaker of the House, president of the Senate, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and commissioner of public safety are strong, independent women.

“Maine Women: Living on the Land” can be seen at Coastal Studies for Girls, 308 Wolfe’s Neck Road, on Nov. 20, noon to 5 p.m.; Nov. 21, noon to 3 p.m.; Dec. 4, noon to 7 p.m.; Dec. 5, noon to 3 p.m.; Dec. 11, noon to 5 p.m., and Dec. 18, noon to 5 p.m.

Sidebar Elements

pnms-artforecast-111809.jpgOne of the images in “Maine Women: Living on the Land,” a black-and-white photo essay by Emerson College professor and Maine summer resident Lauren Shaw, on exhibit at Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport.