“Vital Traces” at the UMF Art Gallery

By Paige Lusczyk, Contributing Writer.

The University of Maine at Farmington’s Art Gallery will be showcasing installation artist Samantha Jones’ work, “Vital Traces,” until Oct. 28. Last week, Jones spoke about her work at a public reception on Mantor Green.

“Vital Traces” is split up into three different sections, one for each floor of the gallery. Each floor connects to a different feeling of grief.

“There is a joy that comes from the body that the brain can’t handle,” Jones said. The pieces shown in “Vital Traces” and the materials used helped Jones step out of her body and be one with her grief, she said.

“There is no border for me between personal and art,” Jones said. “Our Ego is in the way of our ability to connect to the rest of the world… in the way of saving ourselves.”

The first floor holds many different styles of art ranging from glasswork to jewelry sculptures to digital aluminum prints. Jones likes to call the first floor “Area 51” or  “Seance.” The work is all about reaching.

“It’s not human. It’s all types of being,” she said.

With her piece, “Seance with Malka,” Jones admitted to channeling her late grandmother-in-law to help her place each piece of jewelry. The jewelry itself was her grandmother-in-law’s and she felt even more connected to her as she placed each piece.

“She was a walking art piece,” Jones said, “I channeled her.”

One of the more curious display pieces of “Vital Traces” would be the breastmilk soap on the first floor. Jones saw the art as an excretion of the initial process. She connected a child to that process and actually used her own breast milk from nursing her son.

“The art that comes has its own life; it becomes its own. It then gets to teach me,” Jones said. “It is not doing it according to our bidding.”

The second floor is “where the pieces get to reach back.” As you walk up the stairs a beautiful piece is draped along the staircase that is full of life and conversation. The piece, “L’esprit de L’escalier,” was inspired by Diderot, an artist that talked about how we only think of good comebacks when we walk away from the situation. “When the earth starts to speak,” Jones said.

Pieces “Entanglement III” and “Seismic Dreams” are the largest pieces in “Vital Traces.” “Entanglement III” falls differently in every installation. It becomes one with the room.

“Seismic Dreams” was made with no plan. Jones worked in a way with the material so she would not interfere with how it wanted to form. The piece was not titled until Jones opened the folded cloth. “It was telling me what it was,” Jones said.

The third floor is more of a cathartic gesture. It holds only one piece titled “Immanence” which tries to capture the essence of topless churches in Rome. The piece brings a sense of “connecting the architecture to the atmosphere.”

Jones admitted that she sees the “materials [she] works with as living creatures.” Seeing her work as living beings helps the process be more organic for Jones. Although she did admit that “it’s terrifying not knowing where you’re going.”

However, Jones said her art is truly all about the process. Most of the work that she displayed in the gallery was made by trying to avoid a true plan and letting the art speak for itself.

“It is a way into care, it’s a way into reconnecting to things that we have subverted and ignored by trying to make a plan,” Jones said.

Gallery Director, Sarah Maline took the initiative to reach out to Jones. “I had been stalking her work online for a couple of years,” Maline said.

“Vital Traces” was postponed for another year after the initial acceptance because of the pandemic. “The whole show changed after that year. Right? Because you can’t have just…. something that you thought you had, then you’re in a different place, right? You gotta be where you’re at,” Jones said.

Recent UMF Alumna, Samantha Taylor, opened up for Jones in the public reception. Taylor performed by singing and playing songs on a guitar for a half hour.

Art Installations in Downtown Farmington Created by UMF Students

Art Installations in Downtown Farmington Created by UMF Students

By Emily Mokler – Contributing Writer

UMF students gathered in the alleyways of downtown Farmington to create and perform art as part of the Water Bear Confabulum, an alternative arts festival hosted by the UMF Art Gallery.

The event included a 5k run, with proceeds benefitting local high school students attending UMF who have an interest in both the arts and the environment.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

Visitors saw the downtown change with art unfolding from UMF students and professionals. Students in a Drawing class drew each other in chalk, an exercise known as blind contouring. Abby Sanborn, a freshman Creative Writing, and Art major was one of the students drawing in the alleyway next to Renys with chalk. Each figure had distinct blocks of color.

Student working on a mural near the alleyway by the Homestead Bar & Bakery on Broadway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

“The point of the exercise is to draw what our eyes see, not what our mind sees,” Sanborn said as she rubbed the chalk into the wall, building up the vibrant color.

Following the sound of drums led to students dressed as animals, and statues of animals dressed like humans.  AJ Mae, a freshman, wore a gown made of trash bags and set up an installation using reflective, everyday objects ranging from party masks to CDs.

“Different people see themselves in different places and in different ways,” said Mae. According to Mae, the installation was inspired by how “the media frames how we see ourselves, and distorts our expectations.”

Another alley had large charcoal drawings of landscapes, and visitors were asked to smudge the original work into whatever they wanted with bread. A volunteer spoke about exhibits in Bonney Woods. There were interactive installations about asking for phrases

In Bonney Woods,“The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing faintly on the flute. The student playing the flute, who wore a pair of exaggerated legs in silver fabric in a kneeling position, reflected on the recent protests during pro football games.

Returning to downtown, dozens of other students gathered in the alleyway, participating in performance art. There were students dressed as robots, a rose, a punk with a four-foot high mohawk. One woman handed out kind words painted onto cardboard without saying a word. Another asked people to write down what they said when frustrated and place the words inside the empty head of a sculpted child.

Figures in Homestead Alleyway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

There was a small black dome in the center of the alleyway with a white sheet splattered with red. Pulling back the sheet revealed small LED candles inside. A hand reached out and said, “Keep your softness” while handing out soft plastic stuffing.

The Water Bear Confabulum surrounded visitors visually, auditorily, and mentally with art. To see more photos, search for “The Water Bear Confabulum” on Facebook.

Juliet Karelsen’s ‘Juliet’s Room: Recent Work’ On Display At UMF Art Gallery

Juliet Karelsen’s ‘Juliet’s Room: Recent Work’ On Display At UMF Art Gallery

By Sofia Vanoli, Contributing Writer

Artist Juliet Karelsen (Photo by Sofia Vanoli)

Artist Juliet Karelsen (Photo by Sofia Vanoli)

The UMF Art Gallery is hosting artist Juliet Karelsen for the third time with her new exhibition  “Juliet’s Room: Recent Work,” which is on display through March 12.

It is an exhibit appropriately described as a path from the natural world to the personal and emotional life of the New Yorker artist.

The first floor of the two-leveled Art Gallery holds the colorful exhibition “Lichen” that features abstract and vibrant “paintings” on linen with thread, embroidery floss and paint. They depict lichen, mushrooms, fiddleheads and mosses in a forest environment while seasons go by changing their colors from brown to green in each work.

“The downstairs is kind of like a forest, I would say. And I think people will really like it coming here in the middle of the winter,” said Karelsen. “It’s kind of an oasis, as someone once said,” explained the artist and longtime member of the Farmington community.

“I think it is an interesting and original way of portraying nature,” said Eva Schneider, UMF Language Teaching Assistant and attendee of the event. “The variety of mediums used by the artist is particularly creative,” she said while admiring one of Karelsen’s works in detail.

“I’m impressed because the works are not labeled so that leaves you to your imagination,” said Chris, a Farmington community member as he tried to name one of the lichen “paintings” located at the entrance hall which he noted was his favorite.

“The Apartment,” “Oma’s Gloves,” and “Sympathy Series” located upstairs explore the concepts of memory and loss in Karelsen’s life in diverse mediums such as gouache and needle point. Visitors can also find pieces of furniture from The Karelsen’s apartment in New York that the artist decided to make into art after her father died in 2013.

“Upstairs is more psychological, it’s more about the sense of loss and memory. And I think it’s particular for people who have lost their parents or their home. It really resonates,” said Karelsen when describing what visitors can find on the second floor of the Gallery.

In one of the tours around the exhibition during the opening reception, Karelsen fondly remembered where all the things were at her family home and she said they brought memories to her, pointing to her mother’s vanity where she would spend time with her heated curlers and lipsticks.

“The exhibition is very realistic, like it depicts someone’s life,” said Danielle Bowler, secondary education major. “My favorite artworks are the embroidered portraits of pill bottles.” They are part of “The Apartment” series and they represent how present they were in her life as her parents aged.

Farmington community member Greg Kimber agreed with Bowler. “I really like the paintings of the pill bottles because they remind me of a children’s illustration from when I was a kid.” The free interpretation and the personal connection with the artworks are present in each of them.

Anyone interested in the exhibit can visit the Art Gallery at 246 Main St. on  noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, and by appointment.