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Zillman Art Museum cuts ribbon on expanded offerings Featured

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BANGOR – The University of Maine’s Zillman Art Museum (ZAM) has opened five new galleries.

The museum, at 40 Harlow Street, has been a bastion of the Bangor art scene since it relocated from the UMaine campus in 2002. The single floor of the museum has featured both visiting exhibits and pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, with Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Andrew Wyeth taking their turn in the galleries.

Of course, such formidable artworks need elbow room. Following a generous gift from Don and Linda Zillman, as well as support from local benefactors, the museum has expanded. A newly renovated second floor opened to the public on Saturday. “To see this vision realized is a milestone for the museum, one that will contribute to our continued growth as an institution,” said George Kinghorn, ZAM’s executive director and curator, at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting event.

This is a remarkable collection of art. If you enter on the first floor, you’ll begin your circuit at Sidney Russell’s exhibition The Big Stitch, where a nine-foot-tall Hawaiian shirt fills the wall. Russell has sewn gargantuan articles of clothing. There’s a boot here, a backpack there, pants and shirts and oversized lingerie. Each piece has been hand-painted to a bemusing level of realism—it seems that you could wear these clothes, if only you were big enough. You’re compelled to imagine the body that could fill them. This is alarming, like you need to get the heck out of this clothes closet before the giant returns.

Photographer Amy Stein’s exhibition, Domesticated, is equally surreal. In one photo, a coyote howls at a streetlamp. In another, a black bear’s head is caught in a plastic bag. A wolf stalks toward a child. A dead-eyed fawn gazes from between seedlings in a greenhouse. These are strange encounters between an organic world and an artificial one, and they are alarming. Why is nobody snatching the child away, freeing the bear, putting things back in their places? Why is Stein standing around taking pictures?

Answer: the animals look dead-eyed because they’re, well, dead. Stein used taxidermied animals to stage these scenes—the ultimate domestication. According to Stein, the photos are based on real-life events that occurred between 2005 and 2008 around Matamoras, Pennsylvania. Yet Stein has recreated the events using the preserved corpses of animals. They’re weird, stiff objects, and they pose no threat to the photographer—a metanarrative that becomes the most troubling aspect of Domesticated.

Manipulation of nature is similarly the focus of Emily Eveleth’s series of paintings Future Possessive. Entering this exhibition is like entering a golden-age detective novel. Here are dark figures and white shirtsleeves, glaring lights and deep shadows. Take the enormous painting Present Imperative, in which a tuxedoed man lies supine beside a world globe, while a figure in the foreground wields another globe like a weapon. Or the painting Possessive Determiner, created especially for the ZAM exhibition, which figures the globe as the target in a game of billiards. There’s a mime lurking in the background. It feels unsafe.

Eveleth shrinks the planet to a size that can be held in the hand, groped, abused. And the gloved figures in her paintings are cavalier in their use of these small worlds. Yes, it would be easy to take Future Possessive simply as a piece of environmental commentary—which it undeniably is, and a provocative one—but that would minimize the narrative power of Eveleth’s work. You areinside a detective novel, and the plot is unclear. Is the reclining man unconscious or dead? Are these people victims, conspirators, or something else? And why, so help me, is there a mime?

Other exhibitions include Anne Arnold’s The Soul of It, Shona MacDonald’s tender land, and photographer Roman Franc’s wild Watch The Birdie! The exhibitions Inflorescence and Open Lens featureselections from ZAM’s permanent collection.

On your way out, don’t miss the display beneath the stairway, featuring homegrown talent: the artists of Bangor High School. Check out Haley Metzger’s Midnight Zoomcall, an ink work depicting an assemblage of forest animals. The saucy little chaps are enchanting. This is what the newly expanded Zillman Museum of Art is all about: gathering good art in Bangor, both from within and without.

(The Zillman Art Museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information about ZAM and its offerings, visit their website at zam.umaine.edu.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 September 2021 10:15

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