Maine’s Mini-mecca: Contemporary On The Coast

Jocelyn Lee, The Cove, 2017.

Jocelyn Lee, The Cove, 2017.


Greg Morell

I was the victim of a studio flood in Northampton, Massachusetts. The sewer drain next to the back door of my basement studio plugged and I was inundated with a nasty slurry of fetid water that infected my costumes, my library and anything under two and half feet in height. I was not looking forward to reliving the disaster as I headed to Tom Burckhardt’s “Studio Flood,” one of four exhibitions currently on view on at Rockland’s Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA).

However, much to my surprise, I was enthralled. This is a true miracle of cardboard construction in amazing detail. Creatively clever, smartly humorous, this artist’s topsy-turvy phantasmagoria of mind-bending detail is a delicious take on devastation. You cannot help but smile at its conceit. Every nook and cranny is filled with carefully crafted ephemera, all executed with exacting detail. Paint brushes, tubes of paint, a Home Depot drill, an electric fan, windows, doors and even an upside-down shower.

Walking in and around this imaginative apparition is pure pleasure, as Burckhardt is full of surprises.

Jocelyn Lee has been making portraits and photographing women and girls throughout her career. When she made the move from Brooklyn to Maine, she began to delve into the relationship of her subjects to the radiance of the natural environment. Her women inhabit, invade or meld into the world around them. Her exhibition entitled “The Appearance of Things” is a collection of close to 40 recent works.

Lee sings the body extreme, with inflated female bodies of lugubrious dimension or ravaged by age and diminished by time. Some of her women are submerged in water or delicately balanced on a rotting log in the midst of a wild forest, their splayed forms resting in fragile repose. In others, gleeful Rubenesques defy their mass and musically move through an airy wood — like ample Shakespearean nymphs. Still others stand in stark exposure, painfully pinned against hostile foliage.

There is a disturbing intimacy in much of the work along with a note of incredulity.

I happen to love the theatricality of masks, mime, dance and exuberant color. There is no shortage of any of these elements in B.R.A.C.E., MASS MoCA, a two-part experiment that was staged at the North Adams, Massachusetts-based museum and is now on view at CMCA through October 7. Against a background of sharply angled geometric stripes of florescent green, electric blue and cardinal red, a menagerie of characters emerges in similar striped costumes of the same brilliant colors. As these characters move through their ritualistic mime-dance, these bold, wide, hard-edged stripes of vibrant color are further reflected in Mylar mirrors, creating a kaleidoscopic clash of studied momentum.

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