From Baja to Bar Harbor: Transnational Contemporary Art

June 9 - October 22, 2006
Sam van Aken • Justin Richel • Michele O'Marah • Julio Morales

Four artists, two from California and two from Maine, are featured in the latest exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design. “From Baja to Bar Harbor: Transnational Contemporary Art” presents an exciting selection of new large-scale video and installation works by four emerging artists working in different corners of North America.

The exhibition features work by artists Sam van Aken and Justin Richel of Maine and Michele O'Marah and Julio Morales, of California. The show opens on June 9 with artists’ talks by Morales and Van Aken at 6 p.m., followed by a reception at 7:30 p.m. It remains on view through October 22. Also on June 9 at 7:30 p.m., performance artist William Pope.L will bring the Black Factory to the lobby and loading dock of the Porteous Building. The Black Factory is a traveling, collaborative exhibit exploring what it is to be black, or not, in America today.

“Oh My God, 2003,” a sound installation consisting of a gallery-spanning expanse of stacked stereo speakers, is inspired by Sam van Aken's response to television coverage of the 9/11 attacks. Sampling hundreds of its title's signature phrase from news clips, action movies, and porno films, van Aken creates a looming "wailing wall" reflecting life's agony and ecstasy.

Michele O'Marah's video “Valley Girl, 2002,” is a scene-by-scene remake of the eponymous 1983 teen cult film starring Nicholas Cage.~Shot using the artist's friends, most of whom are artists, as actors, and actual locations throughout Los Angeles, Valley Girl is an ebullient testament to the power of do-it-yourself creativity.

Reared on both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border, Bay-Area artist Julio Morales uses advanced visual strategies to examine informal economies in the American and Mexican states of California and Baja California. For a new work commissioned by the ICA at MECA&D, Morales employs transforms photographs of Latino pushcart entrepreneurs into swirling, deconstructed collages of adhesive vinyl.

Justin Richel, a 2002 MECA&D graduate, paints men with big wigs, borrowing from early New England Victorian aesthetics. These arguably important men have wigs that nearly topple with their mounds of hair as well as birds, fountains, bee hives and other assorted symbols of strength. The installation recreates a New England parlor, full of pomp, circumstance and political critique.