Only 45 minutes beyond Portland, in Lewiston, Maine, a winter trekker will revel in two exhibitions at the Bates College Art Museum unique to its own holdings, on view through March 18. On the main floor, in conversation with Bates’s renowned Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection, Museum Director Dan Mills has brought together eight contemporary artists whose works illuminate the wide-ranging sensibility of this Modernist giant who styled himself the “Painter of Maine.” The lower gallery showcases the cream of a collection of contemporary photographic prints recently donated to Bates College by the well-known Maine photographer and philanthropist, Barbara Morris Goodbody.
“And So Did Pleasure…” follows as an inspired second act to last year’s major Hartley exhibition at Bates. Each artist has selected one of Hartley’s drawings from the collection that speaks to their work and offers reflections on perceived connections between Hartley’s artistic persona and their own. (The show’s title quotes Hartley’s own words from “The Royal Love Child,” an allegorical lament revealing the anguish and joy of a closeted homosexual — in this century less problematic for a modern, more accepting audience.)
Hartley, born in Lewiston in 1877, was a pioneer who, over his lifetime, fused his expressionistic power and visionary abstraction into a singularly American approach to landscape, portraiture and still-life. Restricted under prevailing social convention, he migrated to other cities and continents in search of greater freedom. He returned to Maine in 1937 and readopted it as his home state.