The Center for Contemporary Art, 162 Russell Ave., will open four new exhibitions Saturday, Aug. 6 with a public reception for the artists from 4 to 6 p.m. The shows will run through Sept. 25. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

The exhibitions are: “Un/natural Splendor,” paintings and monotypes by Inka Essenhigh and sculpture by Richard Van Buren; “Burn Drawings and Recent Paintings” by Reese Inman, part of the statewide 2011 Maine Drawing Project; “Stopgap and Steadfast,” an installation and recent drawings and sculpture by Ethan Hayes-Chute; and “Banded Artifacts/Banded Men,” photographs, sculpture, paintings and drawings by Paul Oberst.

The recent works of Essenhigh and Van Buren reference the natural world, Essenhigh’s filtered through her own internal dreamscape and Van Buren’s through his neo-baroque sensibility. Inspired by myth, folklore and fairy tales, Essenhigh’s contemporary narratives evoke an air of disquietude beneath the mesmerizing beauty of their imagery and execution.

The extravagant, flowing forms and iridescent surfaces of Van Buren’s latest sculptures are inspired by the light and landscape of the Maine coast. Created from biodegradable thermoplastic and embedded with seashells, they embrace the artificial and the organic equally, suggesting life forms of their own.

Essenhigh divides her time between studios in New York and Tenants Harbor. She is represented by 303 Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Van Buren lives and works in Perry and is represented by Portland’s Aucocisco Galleries and Gary Snyder Project Space, New York.

Inman’s art explores the impact of computer technology on everyday life, making elements of digital process visible that are not readily apparent. The artist’s ethereal, lace-like burn drawings and colorful “algorithm map” paintings are created through a meticulous retracing by hand of output from computer algorithms, which Inman codes.

“Technology permits us to extend ourselves beyond the physical limits of time and space, such that the swarms of bits and bytes circulating the Internet might be considered the blood of a collective organism, within which we participate and interact. On the other hand, technology offers equal potential for separation, for distancing ourselves, for fantasy, and for the control and customization of daily experience,” said the Harvard grad who lives and works in Belfast.

Hayes-Chute works in a variety of media, his work suggesting potential living situations based on his concepts of self-sufficiency, self-preservation and self-exclusion. In “Stopgap and Steadfast,” Hayes-Chute has created a new, full-scale, site-specific installation created from found and reclaimed materials, outfitted with recycled and improvised furnishings and day-to-day ephemera and artifacts.

The Maine Arts Commission 2011 Visual Arts Fellow, Hayes-Chute often can be found exploring dumps and perusing second-hand shops for potential objects to populate his constructions. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he recently completed residencies in Norway and Iceland and at the Vermont Studio Center. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany, and Freeport.

Oberst creates objects that reference universal themes of ritual and ceremony. Recently he has been “banding” his created objects and photographic subjects in black and white and colored stripes, inspired by the trickster gods of the Southwest Pueblo people. In his photographs of banded men and boys, one senses a mysterious rite interrupted. The subjects’ black and white body paint suggests a unity among races, a coming together of life’s dichotomies. The recent sculptural works in the exhibition resemble found ceremonial artifacts, worn with the patina of use and age, and include a site-specific installation titled “Rockport 8.” Oberst lives in Freedom and is represented by Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia. The Banded Men photographs are a collaboration between Oberst and photographer Patrick McNamara.

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art is a nonprofit organization advancing contemporary art in Maine through exhibitions and educational programs. For more information, visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to