As we enter 2021, ever-changing state and local government-ordered shutdowns and building capacity limits makes planning and scheduling exhibitions a challenge for all involved. Before departing for a gallery or museum, please call ahead to confirm days and hours, and if an exhibition or artist mentioned here gets your interest, please explore the work on the venue and artists’ websites.
Opening New Year’s Day and continuing through February 26, the Mayo Street Arts Pop-Up Gallery in the former Nissen Bakery Building, 67 Washington Ave., Portland, Maine, will feature two exhibitions curated by gallerist, mentor and art curator June Fitzpatrick, the first running till January 22 and the second taking place from February 5 through 26. Participating artists include Michel Droge, William Manning, Christopher Patch, Shannon Rankin, Justin Richel, Noriko Sakanishi and Richard Wilson.
With galleries closed and artists sequestered in studios and homes, 2021 continues an evolution in art begun in 2020, as the consequences of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement irreversibly changed the arts landscape.
We began with cacophonies of banging pots and pans, singing and applauding our health care workers who are risking their health and lives, and in the process, making homemade music standing on city balconies in a new form of performance. But the sounds stopped as the city silenced. No one traveled the streets; only emergency vehicles’ sirens permeated the quiet. Live concerts and theater ended, with live performance before physical audiences prohibited; physical distancing was impossible and loud voices threatened spreading COVID- 19. We relied on music and performance streamed online.
The professional artwork of Lucia deLeiris embodies adventure travel to a T and begs the question, “What remains for a bucket list after you’ve sketched wild chimpanzees in Tanzania from Jane Goodall’s porch or chronicled what lives at both polar extremes?”
Traveling to those places and others, including Micronesia and the Amazon, deLeiris has created a richness of descriptive artworks. Her sketches that documented Antarctica were lauded by the National Science Foundation. As a fourth- generation artist, she says that she cannot remember when creating wasn’t a defining aspect of her day. deLeiris is interested by the movement of living things and comfortable looking at life from above or below the horizon line.
One of the most difficult aspects of wearing a mask during the pandemic is the limitations the mask places on something that is natural — breathing freely, unobstructed. I’ve worn a mask daily since March when the CDC directed people to do so, but on almost every occasion, I’ve mumbled under my breath about the annoyance — until after the heartbreaking videos of George Floyd’s killing on the street; until George Floyd’s plea, “I can’t breathe.” It was impossible not to think of those words in any other context, especially later on when street protests repeated those words en masse. The connection between the private miseries of confinement, social isolation, fear of a deadly virus and the public outcry for recognition, acknowledgment and resolution of social and racial inequities came full circle in an unprecedented way.
“Unprecedented?,” the current exhibition at Burlington City Arts (BCA) juxtaposes the deeply personal responses to the pandemic with the global activism that continues to intensify in a call to action. Nine Vermont and regional artists have created work specifically for this exhibition and, in a spirit of inclusivity, curator Heather Ferrell has asked five local community leaders to reflect on the works by these artists. The works and the commentary/responses are mounted side by side at the gallery and offer depth, personal experience and opportunity for reflection.
Open to the public during COVID- 19 as well as partially accessible in virtual formats, the Attleboro Arts Museum is presenting its annual Member’s Exhibition through January 29 with artworks by participants from across New England and the United States. At this year’s show, audiences will encounter a well-balanced blend of narrative and abstract styles, which AAM’s director, Mim Fawcett, has installed to create provocative sightlines from one artwork to another. The show demonstrates high quality across genres and also reflects this museum’s tendency to exhibit 2D and 3D art forms with equal emphasis.
AAM’s motto, “Arts for Everyone,” translates here into an exhibition opportunity for artists of any age. The show’s guidelines explained that a member could bring up to three works to the museum with the guarantee that all would be included in the show. It is a sweeping promise that generated, over the span of three days, 391 original artworks arriving at the museum. Initially these were spread en masse across the museum’s Ottmar Gallery floor so that surveying the dishabille from time to time, Fawcett could consider items relationally to isolate currents of curatorial context prior to actually installing the show.