PMA Biennial artists announced

Oct 20, 2017
DM Witman’s "Melt N45 E06” is part of a series that saw the Midcoast artist gather satellite images of snow-capped mountains; turn them into unmanipulated digital negatives; and printing them as monochrome salted-paper prints. Some were unfixed, so gradually change into a solid aubergine — essentially a time-lapse enactment of global climate change and the melting of ice reservoirs.

Portland — The Portland Museum of Art has announced the artists participating in the 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial. They represent a wide variety of media, from photography to canoe-making to video. All but one of the 25 artists will be exhibiting at the PMA for the first time ever, expanding the breadth of stories the museum is able to tell in its galleries. The PMA Biennial will open Jan. 26.

To determine the final list, independent curator Nat May assembled a team of arts professionals including PMA Judy and Leonard Lauder Director Mark Bessire; artist and Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance co-founder Theresa Secord; and Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture Co-Director Sarah Workneh. They each visited studios and met artists throughout Maine and the nation. In a change from past Biennials, many of the artists will be exhibiting not just one singular work, but several.

"Rather than put together a 'greatest hits' exhibition, we wanted to use the opportunity of the Biennial to focus on artists who hadn’t previously participated in PMA Biennials or other programming at this institution,” said May.

To show work in a museum can be an important step for an artist, and to present work to a museum audience can invite a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange in our varied cultural community, May said. The participants include artists who have been renowned for decades such as painter David Driskell and photographer Rosamond Purcell; relative newcomers such as painter Anne Buckwalter; and established mixed-media artists Gina Adams and David Minter. A canoe built collaboratively by Steve Cayard and the late, renowned Passamaquoddy canoemaker David Moses Bridges also will be on display.

All artists live in Maine or have ties to the state. May said he was very happy with the exhibition’s range.

“We’ve assembled a great group of people, of identities, and of histories to be represented. The value of the show is in the dialogues it will create, among the artworks selected and among the artists and viewers,” he said.

The Midcoast is represented by DM Witman of Warren, an assistant professor at Unity College and an instructor at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport. And Purcell has a local connection: her 2004 book “Owls Head” was about her longtime friendship with the late William Buckminster, whose Owls Head Antique Shop and 11-acre junkyard produced items that Purcell photographed in large-format Polaroids.

Also participating in the 2018 PMA Biennial are Becca Albee, Nancy Andrews, Elise Ansel, Elizabeth Atterbury, Stephen Benenson, Sascha Braunig, Anne Buckwalter, Tim Christensen, Jenny McGee Dougherty, Angela Dufresne, John Harlow, Séan Alonzo Harris, Erin Colleen Johnson, Shaun Leonardo, Jonathan Mess, Joshua Reiman and Eric Weeks and Fred Tomah.

This is the 10th Biennial exhibition at the PMA and the second organized by an independent curator who spends nearly a year visiting artist studios. The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is made possible by the William E. and Helen E. Thon Endowment Fund. Inspired by his own experience and love of biennials, Port Clyde’s William Thon entrusted the PMA with the means to offer rich contemporary art experiences to its audiences.

The PMA is located downtown at 7 Congress Square. For more information, visit

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