A uniquely whimsical exhibition is currently on display at the Coleman Burke Gallery in Fort Andross. Featuring giant wood-cuts made from the floors of the now-demolished Brunswick High School, as well as playful sculptural installations from artist Robert Wilson and the Boston-based artist collaborative !ND!V!DUALS, this "Winter Group Exhibition" provides an array of artistic gems.
The current exhibition at the gallery has been called "utterly charming," and has proven to be a crowd favorite. The Outside of Inside installation from !ND!V!DUALS features playful, fanciful creatures that were inspired by biological mutations and cartoon superheroes. The pieces are all made of discarded wood, a quality that unites all three of the artistic displays. Of the !ND!V!DUALS piece, a viewer reported, "the little monkeys speak volumes of joy!" Sitting at the entrance to the gallery, The Outside of Inside features magical sculptures that invite the viewer into the enchanted gallery.
"It's always our goal to make people think," said Co-Director of the gallery and Bowdoin College Professor of Art Mark Wethli. "But with this show we're also making them smile."
Robert Wilson's Tin-Sects piece uses discarded tinfoil to create a hauntingly romantic image that calls forth childhood reminiscences. His expertly crafted tinfoil sculptures make the viewer feel like the commander of an army, standing above marching regiments of other-wordly insects.
"Imagination is the first word that comes to mind—assembling an army of scorpions and an army of mantises to fight over a rose," said Wethli. Wilson has been dubbed "the Tinfoil man" and was twice voted as the Best Street/Performance Artist in The Portland Phoenix's Reader's Poll. His tinfoil armies sprawl across the gallery's hardwood floors in preparation for battle in a use of artistic innovation that is characteristic of the gallery.
Flanking the gallery's walls are what might be the world's largest woodcuts, created by former Visual Arts faculty Anna Hepler and local artist Andrea Sulzer in conjunction with Hepler's Advanced Printmaking course that she taught last spring at Bowdoin. Carving the Floors originates from the floors of the demolished Brunswick High School, which Hepler and her students set about carving into enormous woodcuts. The images produced were so large that they could only be printed in strips and then later assembled to form the pieces that are currently on display.
The Coleman Burke Gallery was founded in 2007 by Bowdoin professor John Bisbee and is co-directed by artist and professor Mark Wethli. The gallery currently has outposts in Portland and in New York City's Chelsea gallery district, and Wethli reported that they are looking to expand to Boston. !ND!V!DUALS has been showcased in all three Coleman Burke galleries, but generally the various spaces showcase varying pieces of art.
Regarding how they go about choosing which artists to showcase in the gallery, Wethli said that both he and Bisbee are "interested in showing people whose work we find exciting and that we want to share with others."
Generally, artists come to look at the gallery and respond to the space to influence the works they will create there. The Maine Sunday Telegram called the gallery "one of Maine's best art spaces," as its proportions are excellent for the type of interactive, lively pieces that are currently displayed.
The three groups in The Winter Exhibition are united in their collective effort to reuse discarded materials.
"All of the works in this show were generated from things that were cast offs...things that were rescued from the dumpster and turned into something new," said Wethli.
Bisbee described the current exhibition as "big shiny dumb fun," and added that he and Wethli are currently looking for student interns who would be interested in volunteering at the gallery. All students are eligible regardless of major, provided they bring enthusiasm and energy to the endeavor.
The Winter Group Exhibition will be on display until March 12 in the gallery, which is located in Fort Andross right next to Frontier Café. Future visitors will surely echo the remarks of one viewer who, upon leaving the show, said, "thanks for making us smile!"