From your first class, you’ll observe characteristics of light, form, space and composition that literally transform how you see your surroundings. Combining this constantly strengthening power of observation with a solid understanding of the art form’s history, your work will begin to evolve. You’ll fine-tune your technique, find inspiration in Portland’s waterfront and urban architecture, and learn from professors whose work graces gallery walls across the country. You’ll find your voice - a unique perspective that’s distinctly yours, and, just as importantly, you’ll learn how to market yourself and sell your work. When you graduate with a degree in Painting from MECA, you’re ready to make it your career.
Gail Spaien interprets the natural world from different perspectives; as observed specimen, as aesthetic concept, as metaphor and as a subject that can represent inner experience. Spaien has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Artist Advancement Grant, the Maine Arts Commission Good Idea and Visibility Grants, the Djerassi Foundation Resident Artist Program in Woodside, CA: Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, NY; and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, ME. Her group exhibitions include the DeCordova Museum of Contemporary Art, in Lincoln, MA, Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, ME, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, in California, Crocker Art Museum, in Sacramento, CA, the Portland Museum of Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Portland, ME. Her solo exhibitions include Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, ME, Vanier Gallery in Tucson, AZ, Aucocisco Gallery in Portland, ME, and Ellen Miller Gallery in Boston, MA. She is affiliated with Miller Yzerski Gallery in Boston, MA, and Aucocisco Galleries in Portland, Maine.. She received her BFA from the University of Southern Maine and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is a Professor of Painting and the Chair of the MFA program in Studio Arts at the Maine College of Art. She resides with her husband and daughter in Kittery Point, Maine.
BFA, University of Southern Maine
MFA, San Francisco Art Institute
Painting Faculty - Gail Spaien
THE WORLD OVER: MECA Faculty Exhibition: Gail Spaien
With rudimentary English skills and a vague knowledge Portland, Ahmed Alsoudani fled his home in Baghdad, Iraq and arrived at Maine College of Art. While working several jobs to support himself, he earned his degree in painting, went to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and then Yale University School of Art where he earned his MFA.
His paintings, which depict the atrocities of war, have attracted the international attention of galleries and collectors including Charles Saatchi. Sotheby’s recently auctioned a piece for over $400,000. In 2011, Ahmed’s work was included in the Iraq Pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennial, the first time in 35 years that the country was represented in the international exhibition.
Profiles of Ahmed have been featured in the New York Times, Art in America, and Vogue. After a stint living in Berlin, he settled in New York where he maintains an active studio practice, represented by Haunch of Venison. Ahmed stays connected to MECA by returning to the College as a visiting artist and hosting studio visits for students during their field trips to New York.
Ahmed Alsoudani '05
What is the value in studying painting?
The history of painting can be traced back to the Caves of Lascaux. It is a primary mode of communication, another kind of model for knowledge and a way of understanding the world in which we live. The creative force in humans can not be extinguished. Painting is and always will be a primary method by which people create.
At this time in our history, society needs as many people that have critical problem solving skills in the work force. Our program not only prepares the students to make paintings and contribute to art history, our program prepares our students to problem solve, to take risks, to be articulate, to be curious, to fully participate in whatever arena that choose, to do the best they can, and to be generous, considerate and supportive colleagues. Society will certainly benefit from these kinds of individuals and the contributions that they will make to our world.
What are some of the career paths for someone who majors in Painting?
MECA’s painting program has consistently produced individuals prepared to function as practicing professional artists outside of academia. The Northeast provides unique opportunities for artists. Boston and New York considered major art centers draw many of our students. They go onto set up their own studios and exhibit their work regionally and nationally. Many students use their experiences at MECA to go on and teach in private and public school systems or at the college level. Others choose to work in museums or become curators, art critics, or arts administrators.
What are some examples of what your alums are doing?
All of our painting students are fully prepared for further study. A significant number of our graduates have continued their education at Master’s programs across the country. Schools attended include Yale, Rutgers University, University of Florida at Miami, University of North Carolina at Durham, California College of the Arts, Pratt, RISD, Chicago Art Institute, Hunter College In the recent past professors from Ohio State University and from the University of Madison have tried to recruit our graduates to their MFA programs. A number of students have also received fellowships to attend the Yale at Norfolk program, Idlylwild, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Vermont Studio Program.
What are the prerequisites to major in Painting?
The first two years at MECA provides the basis for the Painting Program. The curriculum is designed to introduce students to the elements and principles of visual thinking build strong technical skills with materials, develop self-critically through the critique process, open the door to the language of art making, encourage students to take electives outside their intended major, and ground them in art history so that when they enter the painting program they have the solid foundation they need to effectively communicate visually.
During the freshman and sophomore years students are enrolled in elective painting courses that are primarily assignment based. Students are given assignments and exercises with specific parameters in which they are required to problem-solve. There is a specific time frame in which the work must occur and be resolved. Completing all assignments, participating in class critiques and group discussions, engaging in individual dialogue with instructors, attendance, answering questions, demonstrating self-critically by making changes and taking risks in their work, following safe studio practices are all ways that students demonstrate their understanding of course work.
What unique skills do your students get?
Art making is one of the hardest jobs because it demands personal discipline, self motivation, internal and external inquiry, and thinking outside of the box. Because the Painting Program requires students to develop a strong work ethic, voice personal opinions and ideas, research and access history, develop an awareness of contemporary culture, our students are fully prepared to approach unrelated disciplines in any area with passion, discipline, creative problem-solving skills, research skills, confidence to take on new challenges and a willingness to change paths when things are not working.
Our program also stresses knowledge of art history and student ability to think and talk about their work in a broader context — culturally and historically.
Why should I study Painting in Maine?
Maine continues to be an inspiring site for many of America’s most notable painters, visual artists, writers and critics since the mid-nineteenth century. Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer, John Marin, Rockwell Kent, Childe Hassam, Marsden Hartley, George Bellows and Andrew Wyeth all came to Maine to capture quaint New England villages, the labor of the lobstermen, the sublime landscape and distinctive light of Maine’s mountains and coast.
Artists colonies in Ogunquit, Deer Isle and on Monhegan Island became destinations for painters for dialogue and inspiration. Each summer since 1946, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, hosts nationally and internationally renown artists and select students who are pushing the boundaries of art making for an intense art experience on a lake in the woods of Maine. And today, contemporary visual artists and critics from New York and other major metropolitan areas, who have been and continue to be at
the forefront of a progressive, changing art world - Yvonne Jacquette, Alex Katz, Rudy Burkhardt, Jonathan Borofsky, Kenneth Noland, Neil Welliver, Robert Indiana, Lucy Lippard, William Wegman - come to Maine to refocus and refresh their work in an inspiring landscape.
In the South and to the West, Boston and the state of Mass. offers students an immediate get away to a larger city with access to some of the most cutting edge institutions in the world such as MIT and Harvard. Maine’s legacy and location not only makes our program unique, the state is removed enough to provide students with the solitude that is necessary to develop honest work.
Will I be able to incorporate other media or interests with my work as a Painting major?
Yes. MECA’s curriculum allows a tremendous amount of flexibility within media. Our students have included video, performance, drawing, & sculptural work to name a few.
What are some of the expectations for a MECA Painting major?
During the junior and senior year, it is expected that students spend 18 hours per week in their studio and 6 hours per week doing the reading and writing projects that have been assigned in seminar. Evaluation in the junior and senior year comes in a variety of forms. In the studio, the most important is the group and individual critique process. They are also evaluated on participation and articulation in individual and group critique. We expect students to be prepared for critique in the form of questions or sharing research materials. Each week students must present visible progress in their studio practice in the form of new work or significant research. Junior and Senior painters also participate in a Review at the end of the spring semester. Three faculty members are chosen and invited by the student to review the work completed during their junior or senior year.
Students are expected to:
- articulate their relationship to the materials, processes and subject
- verbally contextualize their practice within larger issues of history, society, and culture
- display evidence of an active intellectual curiosity and a sincere, honest, investigation of ideas and subjects in relation to work presented.
What are some of the unique aspects of this program?
As students identify meaningful subjects they also pursue a more critically accountable position in relation to their work, ideas and influences. All students are asked to articulate their ideas concerning their process, work, vision, and art historical context as they develop and improve individual painting techniques, material understanding and overall quality of their artistic production.
Who have you had recently in your visiting artist program?
Saul Ostrow, Shirley Kanadea, Amy Cutler, Bruce Pearson, Sarah Charlesworth, Amy Yoes, Anne Harris, T.L. Solien, Hanneline Rogeberg, Laura Lisbon, Giles Lyon, Ed Valentine, Tom Burkhardt,, Barbara Rogers, Ahmed Alsoudani, Diana Cooper, Jennifer Gross (curator), Allison Ferris (curator).