Art Review: After Poe
You know the Poe themes, familiar as Hallows eve, when the sense of stepping into a twilight, dream world, moves you on while oozing through nightmare hangover? Well, entering the art gallery "I looked upon the scene before me... upon the bleak walls... upon a few white trunks of decayed trees, with an utter depression of soul..." (From 'The Fall of the House of Usher'). So Edgar Poe leads you into his place of words, mood. In this case, also, the University of Maine at Farmington Art Gallery.
Exhibits hung on nocturnal themes; magnetism of each art piece drew then diverted viewers around each of the 14 artists' productions. Soft almost non-existent music drifted down from the ceiling. Like webs that caught on to shoulders, you could revamp a horror theme and move through an audience or anyone entering the gallery as a macabre character, rising out of dark moonless night.
Untitled gelatin prints, by Robert Gregory Griffeth, who uses a nineteenth century photo technique, captured the Poe macabre of dark beautiful figures, strange magic symbols, eerie water like glazed lensed gaze into unconscious mind. An enigmatic life preserver with rusted lock, clock, bottle corks sewed on it, looked, also, oddily like a farm-yoked burden, with a partner vent hanging from the wall.
This writer, had to say stop, figure it out, but no -- a small crowd pushed on like cattle. You dragged feet upward, up stairs not sure, not thrilled quite, but open to more.
People hung round a corner eyeing a seeming waxed image of a beautiful woman, called "A GHOST," which sat perfectly still, moved no eyelid, nor finger, white paled cheeks. Here seemed a Madam Toussand full body portrait of Annabelle Lee. You wanted to touch her but she seemed too perfect. Part of the twist of darkness pulled you to the next corner bend, a photo of a skull face,'Untitled', covered with armor. Not sure, not sure, what else?
Back down stairs to view the miniature doll of another Annabelle Lee. Turning your head, everywhere were dolls, and a werewolf, by California artist, Shain Erin. All the way from out there? Yes. Shain is fascinated in the unlimited expressive possibilities of dolls. He creates "not comforting (dolls), challenging and defiant, disturbing and enchanting." He says a doll for him is a spirit vessel, and he works with whatever spirit comes forward. His dolls are made of fine cloth and paperclay. Annabelle Lee, Poe's poetic character is wandering here in thought form, in this art gallery.
Poe wrote Annabelle Lee in 1847; one senses in deep sadness and longing for a beloved person. "All the night-tide, I lie down by the side/ of my darling - my darling- my life and my bride/ In the sepulcher there by the sea/ In her tomb by the sounding sea." Poe married Virginia when she was 13. She died in 1847. ("But our love was stronger by far/ Than the love of those who were older than we...")
Artist Debe Loughlin, of southern Maine, explained her exhibit, this odd vent made of rubber tubing, stuffed with hemp. A stretch of imagination and Poe: ntensity: darkness within exploding outward, contained energy releasing. Her "Life Preserver," a symbol, she says, of darkness of war, the unpreparedness of our military to the young people fighting our wars. Poe had been in the military, but she didn't say this, you can read about it, only that darkness is held within that yoke.
Still groping for contectedness among the many themes, I found another artist, Julia Bykowski, who explained her photographs. Presence expanded as a forest, or building ruin, not blatant, nor demanding. Yet, in place here in this exhibit as a spring one finds to stare within. The one photo of 'Premature Burial' is haunting with mood swing lighting on black and white, hints of Poe's deathly sadness of the passing of his young wife, perhaps, more so, because the photo draws you into its "white trunks of decayed..." The second photo of a fallen tuberculosis hospital, eerily like a 21st century tidal wave swept through this picture. You could hear the voices of the dying there. The photographer explained Poe has inspired her art because he doesn't fear darkness. He goes there to get creative. Dark is both a place of strength and rest, she said.
Other exhibitors Nancy Winship Milliken showed her photographs, Giclee prints of ephemeral sculpture. Melissa Kulig exhibited "Amazon" on graphite paper. Robin Stein, "Floating House" with digital photography. Kym Hepworth, in "Demon Lover," mixed media and C. Couture showed displays of inkjet on paper with guache: "Beware of Little Boys in Bow Ties," and "Beware of Little Girls in Hair Bows." Last, but not left on purpose in that position, were the intriguing small embroderied photographs by Stacey Page. People went two inches up to it, stood transfixed, especially over the one titled, "Take Me With You."
Was this maybe, part of Poe's ending: the desire to be taken with, where night actually placed arms about him?
You wish to stay longer, yet the moon was almost full and clouds whizzed past it with grey light. The evening was over, but not the semester activities going on around Poe's remembrance. He may be sitting on top Mt. Blue, looking down on the town, trying to figure out where 200 years have gone. He gets incredibly popular over time.
To conclude, Poe, it is widely said, draws from the depth of human psyche. His relationship to the world of the invisible, as seen in the diverse theme of the art exhibitors, trespasses into your own space, alone at home. "Those who dream by day, are more cognizant of more things than those who only dream at night," according to Edgar.
The exhibit display is set up by Elizabeth Olbert, UMF Art Gallery director. It runs as part of the 200th Anniversary of Poe's birth: After Poe: Works of Mystery and Imagination. The UMF Gallery holds this unique exhibit through October 28. The gallery is located at 246 Main St., Farmington. No admission is charged. It is open from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, during the UMF academic year and by appointment. For more information, or to make special arrangements, please call 207-778-7002, or email Elizabeth Olbert, director of the UMF Art Gallery, at firstname.lastname@example.org