PORTLAND, Maine - The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at Maine College of Art (MECA) is pleased to announce the opening of Sorry We Missed You, an exhibition of works by fifteen 2020 alumni artists from the Maine College of Art MFA program whose thesis exhibitions were postponed due to the pandemic.

"This exhibition presents a great opportunity to bring these artists and their work together again,” shared Program Chair of MFA in Studio Art and Visiting Assistant Professor Christopher Stiegler. “Sorry We Missed You will serve to introduce this great group of accomplished artists to our community with insightful artwork and alert social commentary."

Through their work, the participating artists explore identity, humor, resilience, and recuperation, locating their concerns in our contemporary moment but also extending beyond it. Director of Exhibitions Julie Poitras Santos says, “We are delighted to be able to present this exhibition of 2020 MFA alumni, whose final year at MECA was so upended by the virus. I’ve had the added pleasure of working with these individuals in class, and couldn’t be more pleased to see the evolution of their work.”

This year, Covid-19 is never far from our minds and some artists in the exhibition use humor as a tool to confront pandemic challenges. Surrealist performances by Frances Hildreth uncover Covid narratives by situating them in the theatre of the absurd, while EJ pokes fun at our Covid lockdown obsessions with bread baking. In contrast, Dasha Kalisz’s biomorphic forms reveal how bodies undergo modifications under the psychological pressures of grief and disease.

Other artists craft responses to cultural urgencies, revealing untold stories or creating works that manifest refuge: Brian Smith’s objects approach environmental concerns using the language of queer ecology; Chip Barchilon uses storytelling, observation, and rhizomatic theory to consider acts of recuperation. Anna Valenti’s works in ceramic and paper create spaces that offer refuge.

Using the materials and language of craft, Elyse Grams challenges viewers to pull back the curtain on the forces that create racist cultural systems at work in the western world today, while photographer Will Jacks examines the role of individual gesture in shaping cultural patterns in the context of the histories of the Mississippi Delta. J Love reveals personal and cultural American histories through languages of touch and use, navigating a way through the queer experience of exile. Liz Rhaney’s multisensory installations reflect intersectional experiences and multi-dimensional perspectives of the BIPOC experience.

Jessica Foley’s seemingly bucolic nature paintings upend a reimagined playing field in which power balances are palpably tipping. John Quigley reveals the magic of painting as a pipeline to the unconscious; while kt Coleman’s text-infused work asks questions about communication and the wiggly space between sureness and unsureness. Oscar Chacon’s intimate videos explore identity, inspiring us to live authentically; Steve Kelly’s reflective installation invites viewers to experience their bodies as objects in a cosmos of other bodies and objects.

Taken as a whole, these works invite us to remember ourselves as vulnerable bodies in the world, and to cultivate empathy, curiosity and wonder as a means to move forward.

ARTISTS: Chip Barchilon, Oscar Chacon, Jessica Parker Foley, Elyse Grams, Frances Hildreth, Will Jacks, EJ, Dasha Kalisz, Steven Kelly, J Love, Liz Rhaney, Brian Smith, kt coleman, John Quigley, Anna Valenti.

Related programming:
April 8, 12-1: Lunchtime panel discussion with artists
April 15, 5:30-6:30: Evening panel discussion with the artists

For more information about this exhibition and upcoming public events, please visit the ICA website.

COVID-19 Policies: The ICA’s simple, timed admission system allows us to welcome visitors to safely view exhibitions at the ICA at MECA during the Covid-19 pandemic. Visitors will be asked to comply with all social distancing recommendations, including wearing masks. Gallery staff will be monitoring attendance and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and hand sanitizer is available for all visitors. Visitor numbers will be limited during half-hour time slots. Please register for a free visit to the ICA here or use the QR code on our door to schedule your visit.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART AT MECA (ICA AT MECA):
The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA), cultivates engagement and dialogue regarding contemporary visual art practices, aiming to foster discourse regarding the critical conversations of our time, and to enhance understanding of visual culture. Located in stunning galleries in Maine College of Art’s landmark Porteous Building, the ICA at MECA presents an exhibition calendar of ambitious work by living artists, operates as a learning laboratory for MECA students, and a center for public programming regarding contemporary art that engages with the local, national and global art community.
Hosting five exhibitions each year accompanied by a dynamic series of public events and artist talks, the ICA at MECA also supports MECA graduate student exhibitions and Maine College of Art events. We are dedicated to working across platforms collaboratively and thinking with others to inspire creative action, reimagine our future, and create compassionate communities together through visual art.
Open Wednesday–Sunday, 12:00pm–5:00pm. The ICA at MECA is always free.
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ABOUT MAINE COLLEGE OF ART (MECA)
Founded in 1882, Maine College of Art is located in the heart of downtown Portland's thriving Arts District. MECA offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 11 studio majors, Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art, Master of Arts in Teaching, Continuing Studies and Pre-College. Institutes at MECA include the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, which offers a graduate certificate, and the Institute for Contemporary Art.

Artwork: Steve Kelly, Reflecting the Anthropocene (detail, 3 disco forms), Ceramic covered in mirror, approx. 12” x 24”, 2020