THE 2018 PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART BIENNIAL
PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART
7 CONGRESS SQUARE PORTLAND, MAINE
THROUGH JUNE 3
by Greg Morell
Biennials are an excuse for established institutions to let their hair down and give voice to the more radical wing of artistic endeavor. For their 2018 Biennial exhibition, the Portland Museum of Art elected to anoint Nat May as chief curator.
Fluent with the current wave of the Maine avant-garde, May for many years steered the ship at SPACE Gallery in downtown Portland. For the Biennial, May solicited the help of Theresa Secord of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance and Sarah Workneh, co-director of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
May devoted 10 months of thought, careful consideration and numerous studio visits to orchestrate the 2018 Biennial. Although this was a Maine biennial, and a great number of the artists showcased are closely allied to the Pine Tree State, his goal was to illustrate artistic currents that were not defined by state borders or geographic boundaries.
May graduated with a degree in religion from North Carolina’s Davidson College. After dabbling with photography, he cofounded Portland’s Bakery Photo Collective. He volunteered at Art Space for a year before becoming its executive director in 2003; his tenure ended in 2016. He is currently the director of the Hewnoaks Artist Colony in Lovell, Maine.
The diverse heritages of May and his co-curators poised the exhibition in an uneasy balance between traditional Native American Craft and in-your-face socio-political polemics that make no excuse for their raw, rough and rude exposition. The raffish, flippant perspective is best typified by Angela Dufresne’s large format oil portrait tableau entitled: “Elizabeth Tubergen-Eat Pussy for Mental Health.” The two words “Eat Pussy” are crudely scratched on the chest of her subject. No timidity is to be found here.