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July 12, 2017
I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. My work currently focuses on storytelling through referencing the past. Most of my characters are inspired from old found photographs of people during the early 1900’s. I love their clothing, haircuts, and expressions as they were captured during a time far before me. Some of these candid moments show childhood friends playing together, laughing, fooling around. Some of the images are much more tragic; they come from tombstones in a very special cemetery behind a church looking over Florence, Italy. Whether in moments of happiness or sorrow, behind each face was a person who lived a lifetime. I like to imagine the memories that their lives consisted of.
When I find photographs of people in the times before, during, and after the onset of industrialization around the world, I’m intrigued with what gave genuine happiness to their lives. I like to reflect upon moments when I have been the most happy. Technology certainly contributes to a lot of amazing conveniences and tools that aid my life, but can they compete with the moments when I’m undistracted, and rather utterly in the present? This has led me to consider ways of “waking up” people to their own thoughts about existence.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has taught me that technical ability can only get you so far if your concepts can’t connect emotionally with others. The task has been to investigate ways of communicating with my intended audience to achieve a feeling of authenticity. To emote this honesty, it’s been important to question each component and characteristic in my pieces to give them the most lucid voice possible. I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more and more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
What inspires you? I’m inspired by other cultures and their traditions and customs. I never want to stop traveling or doing things out of my comfort zone. When you get lost or end up in a place you had never planned for, it sticks in your mind. You remember that feeling of excitement or terror, and hopefully you can end up laughing about it. But whenever you reflect back on these moments of waking up to the reality of life outside of the sheltered box we put ourselves in, the memories become so vivid.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? It hasn’t been so much as a single person giving me a piece of quotable advice, but rather a culmination. The collective advice has been to question everything, to not let yourself get caught in a current with no power to steer. Don’t silence that child in you that sees every new moment or place with curiosity and excitement.
I look at my art through the eyes of a painter, a designer, and an art historian, not just of an illustrator.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. A recent focus of mine is working on background and setting design. I find it easy for me to design figures, so I am challenging myself with making the focus on where the figure is and how they are interacting with the background. I am striving for my backgrounds to tell a story of their own. Right now I’m working on a painting of a flower shop filled with various plants, old floorboards and walls. The painting is being created in gouache, which is currently my absolute favorite medium.
What’s your background? Besides my aunt, I am the only artist in my family; my parents would always tell me that they were never sure where my love for art came from! I spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctor’s offices as a child, which meant lots of sitting and waiting. Drawing was a great way to pass the time as I distracted myself with my imagination. I think by storytelling in my mind, and putting it on paper, made me really fall in love with illustration. It has a lot of influence on how I am as an adult and in choosing my major.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has pushed me to think about my art in many different ways. I look at my art through the eyes of a painter, a designer, and an art historian, not just of an illustrator. My professors encouraged me to take risks and explore options, whether it was through compositions, medium, or style. When I started my freshman year at MECA, I tried to paint as realistically as possible. After quite a bit of trial and error, I finally stumbled upon the style that I am cultivating now. Even through more confidence in a personalized style, I see it still changing and developing.
What inspires you? I am extremely drawn to anything that has a quaint charm. From growing up in a small town, I am attracted to places like farmer’s markets, small coffee shops, and flower shops. At these places, I love people-watching: listening in on conversations or imagining people’s stories. It gives me inspiration to come up with ideas for drawings when I am drawing a blank.
What do you hope to do after graduation? Currently, I am keeping an open mind about what is to come post-graduation. I see myself moving anywhere, really. I have even looked into signing up for the Peace Corps for a few years to get more worldly experience.
The end goal is to make children’s books. As long as I can eventually do that, I will be happy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? One of my peers received this advice, but it changed my art completely. He was asked why the default for character design is blonde hair, blue eyes, and white skin. Where is the diversity? This conversation made me realize that this character standard was exactly what I was doing within my own my art. Since then, one of the focuses in my illustrations is that there is more representation. It really changed the way I think about what I am creating and putting out there.
What else are you interested in? Currently, I am working on collecting and caring for plants, succulents, and cacti. To me, they have a lot of charm, and they are almost impossible to kill — very helpful to me. I am also currently into thrift shopping and traveling. I recently got back from studying in France for a semester; I caught the travel bug because of it. Overall, my hobbies are always changing.
Being able to engage with such a supportive community has led me to exhibition opportunities, grants, and residencies I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Inspired by the historic tradition of allegorical painting, my work depicts figures in ambiguous situations as a way of exploring the strange, nebulous rules of human behavior. I intend my paintings to be both quiet and disquieting, using obscurity, tension, and dark humor to investigate social constructs.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been working on a series of paintings called Perfect Order. In this work, anonymous human figures take on the roles and behaviors of animals that live in matriarchal societies. This series playfully demonstrates dominance hierarchies that subvert stereotypes of masculinity, legitimize female authority, and challenge the binary definition of gender. I’ve always been interested in using my work to create a dialogue about the instability of power relationships between people, and this project has given me to freedom to embrace that concept more fully and explore it specifically within a feminist framework.
Anne Buckwalter resides in Philadelphia, PA as a Artist and Conservation Technician. View her website here.
What resources, tools, or organizations have you found helpful throughout your artistic career?
The greatest resource I’ve had in my career is the privilege and pleasure of knowing some very dedicated and disciplined artists, arts workers, arts educators, and curators. I’ve worked at arts nonprofits since finishing my graduate degree at MECA – the Portland Museum of Art and SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine, and I’m now at the Conservation Center in Philadelphia – and have found that, not surprisingly, having a day-job in this field comes with the benefit of direct and meaningful connections to those who are interested in art and artists. Being able to engage with such a supportive community has led me to exhibition opportunities, grants, and residencies I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I feel very lucky.
Advice for New Alumni
Treat your studio practice like a job, even if it doesn’t make you money. Figure out how many hours you will spend in your studio per day or per week and then accept nothing less. Show up. Stay focused. Keep track of your time. Don’t make excuses.
Take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student.
My path to becoming a freelance illustrator began when I made the decision to transfer from a liberal arts school in Massachusetts to an art school next to my hometown. I knew that I wanted to be self-employed but had no idea what that would look like until I learned about freelance work and the world of illustration.
A specific direction for my work became clear after completing my first project post-graduation, Plant These to Help Save Bees. I had drawn inspiration from nature for many years, but didn’t realize how passionate I’d become about bringing awareness to environmental issues through illustration — something I’ve continued to strive for since.
Now I’m able to work in a home studio freelancing and running my online shop — a job description I had previously never heard of but love so much. Over the last ten years, I’ve also worked at my family’s painting business which continues to be a gratifying and important aspect in balancing my illustration work and financial stability as an artist.
Hannah Rosengren Moran Illustration ’13 resides in South Portland, Maine. View her website here.
0–2 Years Post Graduation
After graduating from MECA in 2013, I worked part-time at the Portland Museum of Art as a Visitor Experience Associate. In my free time, I started my first project post-graduation called Plant These to Help Save Bees. In early 2014, the poster went viral and was published in American Bee Journal, ELLE Decoration Sweden, and Jamie Magazine – Dutch Edition. Its popularity led to my working with Greenpeace on a poster about the Tongass Forest that year, and attracted other clients and online shop customers interested in the burgeoning environmental themes in my work.
3–5 Years Post Graduation
Throughout the next couple of years, I continued to build my shop inventory by making prints and products of personal projects between freelance jobs. In 2015, the newly-opened Press Hotel commissioned a coloring book all about their hotel and Portland in the summertime. In 2016, I was awarded a Rebel Blend Fund Grant from Coffee By Design to illustrate and distribute a zine called How to Cultivate a Pollinator-Friendly Yard, about seasonal ways to help pollinators in Maine. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Greenpeace again on another poster for their campaign to protect the Boreal Forest in Canada.
Advice for New Alumni
My advice for new alumni would be to take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but to maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student. It’s rare that I have as crazy a workload as I did while at MECA, but when I do, the ability to stay motivated and organized while working on multiple projects with coinciding deadlines has been essential.
Christy Georg, a Visiting Assistant Professor in MECA’s Sculpture Program, is driven by her imaginative curiosity, which is reflected in both her life and in her art. She has worked as a deckhand aboard sailing schooners, thru-hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail and the 500-mile Colorado Trail, and cruised the Arctic. Endurance, achievement, and a Sisyphean attempt to capture the present moment remain underlying themes in her endeavors.
“My primary challenge is to teach students the importance of investigation—to become disciplined and independent critical thinkers with the confidence to express themselves in a meaningful manner and with the skillsets to achieve it,” she says.
Recently, she has been focusing on realizing her long-term project Great Guns, an unusual, immersive installation, begun during her residency at Kohler Arts, which called it “one of the most ambitious projects attempted in our 43-year history.” The goal is to construct a large ship-like installation featuring two huge, ghostly white naval cannons, using mirrors to reflect them in an infinite gun-deck that will viscerally illustrate the scene of dexterity between men and machine in close quarters.
Her next step is to build the large architectural space needed to hold the 54 created parts together. Christy has looked to the USS Constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, named by President George Washington, as an inspiration in recreating the structure of a fighting ship. “The USS Constitution was the most famous of the first Six Frigates in America’s Navy, which revolutionized naval warfare by creating a new ‘class’ of fighting ship, which proved successful in maintaining this new country’s independence,” she says. “Imagine entering an environment — the gundeck of a war ship at the apex of the ‘Age of Sail.’ It has low ceilings and structural beams you must duck under, cannon line both sides, dominating the small space. Naval cannons, known as ‘great guns,’ are huge, 10-foot long, violently bucking, scalding-hot war machines, operated under a team of choreographed men, with the threat of fire, guns breaking loose or falling over, and of being shot or hit with giant splinters from explosions.”
Part of Georg’s artistic philosophy is to face logistical challenges head-on and in stride, knowing perseverance and endurance will help her to achieve her ambitious goals. “Danger (existentially of death, as well as physical pain) implicit in experiencing the scene is palpable — a powerful, full-body realization. In my rendering, I acknowledge its past-tense delicately and with reverence — all in ghostly white, with the stillness and silence of vacancy. The viewer is beheld in a ghostly white gun deck battery of infinite length, disappearing into both horizons, a curious and powerful experience!”
Banner Credit: Photo Courtesy: John Michael Kohler Art Center, 2016
Christy Georg earned her BFA at Kansas City Art Institute and her MFA at Massachusetts College of Art. She has participated in numerous residencies, including The MacDowell Colony, the Roswell Artist-in-Residency Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry Program and The Arctic Circle artist and scientist residency program. She has received recognition for her sculptural work from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the University of Rhode Island, the Mellon Foundation, and the Leighton International Artists Exchange Program.
Her solo exhibitions include the Contemporary Artists Center in North Adams, the Roswell Museum, Gettysburg College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the Trustman Gallery at Simmons College in Boston, and the Khyber Institute of Contemporary Art in Halifax. Recently, her retrospective exhibit “20 Years” was hosted by the Gardiner Gallery at Oklahoma State University and most recently her retrospective “20 Years” at the Gardiner Gallery at Oklahoma State University and in the “Alcoves” series at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.
Get out, meet people, talk about what you do. Then go do it again and again.
Sean Wilkinson ’01 (Graphic Design) is the co-founder of the Portland design studio Might & Main, which was founded on Sean’s principles of collaboration, hard work, and rigorous attention to detail. Because of this ethic, they have created memorable and iconic brands for local and national businesses. Current MECA alumni who work at Might & Main include Morgan DiPietro ’11, Sarah McLean ’14, Sabrina Volante ’14, and Miekala Cangelosi ’15.
MECA recently reached out to Sean to learn more about the trajectory of his post-MECA career.
0–2 years after graduating from MECA:
I moved to Seattle looking for a change of scenery and a design job, but arriving three days before 9/11 left me scraping together freelance work and doing various Seattle-esque odd jobs, like working in a video store, assisting around a glassblowing studio, and doing year-round landscaping.
3–5 years after graduating from MECA:
I returned to Maine and took a job at a print shop as designer / preflight guy. I built a huge store of valuable technical production knowledge and learned how to work fast. I left that job after 18 months to work as the designer for the Portland Phoenix, fell in love with the idea of alternative publications, and was soundly fired a year or so later when I helped start the biggest competitor the Phoenix ever faced, The Bollard.
5–10 years after graduating from MECA:
While at The Bollard, I pursued a mix of freelance work and some time at small agencies around Portland. After an 18-month stint at a particularly dysfunctional agency, I bugged out and took a job as a deckhand on a “smack boat,” selling bait daily to lobstermen in Casco Bay. I bankrolled my summer with additional freelance work for Hannaford, MaineHealth, The Downeaster, etc.
10+ years after graduating from MECA:
The week after I stopped working on the boat, and pretty much on the day I ran out of money, I was hanging out on a friend’s couch in Brooklyn and I got a call from David Puelle ’90, who hired me over the phone (after having met at MECA and talked several times). I was at his studio the next day, and worked there for almost four years, doing great projects for Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Thomas Moser, and other great Maine companies. I
In 2010, I launched Might & Main with Arielle Walrath and we’ve built a firm that’s now 10 employees strong and working for clients in Maine, Boston, New York, and beyond. We currently employ five MECA alums.
Tell us the story of your artistic path:
I’ve made a career path out of not settling. When things have felt stale, I’ve jumped into something new. This organic path has led me to a great, confident place of leadership for our little design firm. I’ve always been a stickler for truth in materials and honesty in execution, and that has led us to become a sought after design partner for brands that can benefit from our attention to detail across varied touchpoints—especially hospitality, food and beverage, and consumer goods.
What resources, tools, or organizations have you found helpful throughout your artistic career?
My entire business is built on relationships developed in person through networking, bolstered by an incoming stream of referrals by word of mouth. I can’t emphasize enough the value in learning how to talk to anyone, how to turn conversations into subtle self-promotion, and how to be discerning with the work you chase after and the work you let go.
Any advice for recent graduates?
Get out, meet people, talk about what you do. Then go do it again and again. Get over discomfort. Your most valuable promotional tool is yourself, your voice, and your personality. It can feel repetitive and obnoxious at times, but looking back at the 16 years since graduating, the people I met and the relationships I’ve built are the most crucial pieces of my career path. That moment when you think, “Should I say hello to that person? Should I give them a card? Should I tell them what I do?” That is an opportunity to potentially change the course of your life.
Utilizing collaborative artmaking as a tool for equity, social justice and public action.
Two faculty members, Elizabeth Jabar, Assistant Dean, Director of Public Engagement & Program Chair of Printmaking, and Colleen Kinsella, Printmaking Instructor & Printmaking Studio Technician, recently were interviewed for their art collective Future Mothers on CSArt: Maine.
“What / who is currently inspiring you locally?”
“Our Public Engagement students at Maine College of Art inspire us every day by their willingness to take creative risks and engage others in challenging dialog. Their experimentation and fearlessness in making socially engaged art is a model for their peers and their community. We also are inspired by young muslim students of color leading public actions against police violence and the recent muslim ban.”
Future Mothers is the collaborative team of Colleen Kinsella and Elizabeth Jabar. Their works bring together scenes and events from everyday life with divine journeys, cycles of nature, disasters, wars, birth, and death. Future Mothers is oracle-like in nature, remembering vague echoes of gatherings and traditions, creating visual illuminations of creation and destruction, a retelling of cycles throughout history that bind us to the present and future. Kinsella and Jabar intertwine signs, symbols, architecture, nature, landscape and figure into a juxtaposition of episodes and symbolic statements that elevate female narratives and confront the conditions of contemporary life.
Students who first entered his class fearful of ‘science’ came away with confidence, knowing that artistic expression can be a powerful tool to reflect important science issues facing society today
Portland, ME– Maine College of Art and The National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) are proud to announce that Doug Vollmer, former Assistant Professor in Academic Studies at MECA, is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award. The award is given to a classroom educator for effective and innovative classroom teaching at any level and Doug’s decades of dedication to his work and passion for teaching coastal science made him a natural choice to receive this honor. The award was presented to him on June 27, 2017, at NMEA’s national conference in Charleston, SC, by 2016-17 NMEA President Tami Lunsford. Doug has been a formal teacher for 60 years and for the last 40 has inspired and educated MECA students as a professor of biology up until his retirement in 2016. He continues to be a passionate advocate for the preservation of the natural world.
As a science professor at an arts college, Doug challenged his students not only to think and reason like a scientist, but also to use the visual world as a canvas for interpreting science through the use of art. Every year, Doug Vollmer took students on field trips to nearby rocky shores, salt marshes, and dunes as part of his Natural History of Coastal Ecosystems class.
As Doug’s colleague Bob Jenkins, who teaches math as an Associate Professor at MECA points out, “Doug connected each artist to the natural world and the issues surrounding the presentation of coastal ecosystems. He empowered students to create art, as a universal language, to convey concepts that cross into real life political and scientific arenas. Students who first entered his class fearful of ‘science’ came away with confidence, knowing that artistic expression can be a powerful tool to reflect important science issues facing society today.”
As a teenager, Doug spent summers in Maine with his family. Hours were spent collecting, examining, and photographing marine life with an amateur box camera. He has received National Science Foundation grants in Radiation Biology and Marine Biology and was a collaborative producer of the award-winning video Reading the Water: Lectures on Home Video Ecology from the Gulf of Maine, which documents the interrelationship between three generations of Vollmer men as they explore the Maine shores. Part Darwin and part Steve Erwin, but always uniquely Doug, he disciplined his students to see with clear, fresh eyes the empirical and esthetic essence of Maine’s natural environment. He leaves a legacy of dedicated pedagogy combined with a personal affectionate flair for investigating both the science and nature of art.