Michael Queenland: Photographs, Sculptures and Shaker Classics

August 24—October 30, 2005

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The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design (ICA at MECA&D) will begin the academic year with an exhibition by California artist Michael Queenland. Currently an artist-in-residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, Queenland makes unconventional, emotionally charged photographs, sculptures, and installations drawing from life, literature, and spirituality. Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design, Michael Queenland is the artist’ s first solo museum exhibition and catalogue project.

Combining everyday materials like candles and electrical cords or spider webs and Styrofoam packing peanuts, Michael Queenland mines social, religious and artistic traditions to discover powerful forms and associations. Disarmingly simple, the resulting images and objects use the bare minimum to evoke rich histories.

Queenland is inspired by religion, English literature and the legacy of avant-garde art. He is especially fascinated by radical, reductive, and antimaterialistic impulses. In particular, he is interested in the ways the broad puritanical streak in the American psyche is expressed in innovative social and artistic movements such as Shakerism and Minimal and Conceptual Art. Similarly, his work operates in the gap between the ideal and the real. His fine-grained black-and-white photographs of subjects such as interior details of funeral home interiors and Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits are filled with visual/ tactile information and haunting overtones. His work operates an exciting middle ground between the psychologically charged objects of 1930s European Surrealism and early twentieth-century American Gothic.

For Photographs, Sculptures and Shaker Classics, Queenland is collaborating with MECA&D Woodworking and Furniture Design majors and faculty and members of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village in New Gloucester, Maine, to create an installation incorporating models of historic Shaker furniture. Drawing from John G. Shea’ s Making Authentic Shaker Furniture: With Measured Drawings of Museum Classics, the definitive sourcebook on the religious movement’ s spare, inventive furniture, the installation includes oversize models of Shaker furniture and small craft objects as well as photographic studies of the models installed in rooms at Sabbathday Lake. Reared as a Davidian, an orthodox sect of Seventh-Day Adventism, Queenland has a native interest in how religious communities express themselves in the visual and decorative arts. By remaking icons of Shaker furniture, which—in our Martha Stewart age—have become highly valued staples of American interior design as well as all-purpose symbols of purity and simplicity, he hopes to recover their spiritual roots, or, as he describes it, “ re-enchant a vernacular that’ s become separated from its spiritual origins.” Several objects from this project are also on view from July 20 through October 31, 2005, in New York at The Studio Museum in Harlem in the exhibition Scratch, showcasing work by artists-in-residence.

On Thursday, October 27, at 6:00 p.m., Michael Queenland will participate in a panel discussion entitled “ Spirituality in Contemporary Art.” He will be accompanied by artists whose work explores religious and metaphysical subjects as well as by Brother Arnold Hadd, a member of the Sabbathday Lake United Society of Shakers in New Gloucester, Maine. Admission is free; seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The exhibition opens on August 24 and continues through October 30. The artist will give a public lecture on September 15 at 6:30 p.m. followed by an opening reception from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.