The Industrial Maine exhibit at the Atrium Gallery in Lewiston motivated me to paint something that makes me angry.
Usually I paint scenes that delight or surprise me. But for a long time I’ve had the urge to paint something that infuriates me — like the dismantling of U.S. manufacturing.
And if that sounds abstract to you, just ask yourself how Donald Trump got elected.
So when I saw the call for artists for the exhibit, “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape,” I already knew what I wanted to paint.
Industrial Maine belongs to the past, really. Mills and factories used to support tens of thousands of families in Maine. Now, however, tourism ranks as the state’s No. 1 industry. And the tourist dollar can be a hard one to earn.
Maine suffers deeply from the flight of manufacturing. You can see the evidence everywhere if you look beyond Portland or Camden or Castine. Food pantries in every town. Suicides reported in the newspapers. Syringes lying along the roadsides. Smoke pouring from the chimneys of ramshackle campers in the dead of winter.
The picturesque fishing village I live in, Stonington, used to have a sardine factory. It’s gone, like every other seafood canning business in North America. And a lot of jobs disappeared with it.
We’re lucky in Stonington. We still have a shipyard. And we have a robust fishing industry, which dominates the local economy.
About an hour away from here in Bucksport, Maine, a giant paper mill used to employ hundreds of workers at good wages. Now it’s closed, and a Canadian scrap metal firm is tearing it down.
So I painted it. And then I got into the exhibit. Here’s a description of the exhibit:
Now on display in the Atrium Art Gallery at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn campus is an exhibit of paintings, photographs, prints, and sculpture by 27 Maine artists called “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape.”
Guest curator Janice L. Moore paints working factories and abandoned work sites throughout the state. She believes that, in Maine,
…we often reference our idealized natural state of forests, mountains, and coastline, but there is another overlooked landscape that tells an important truth about our culture, our history, and our potential.
Bucksport will survive. I hear a salmon fishery and a lobster processing company will move on to the property owned by the paper company.
But as for me, I’ve started to look at the landscape differently since painting the old paper mill. I’m now starting to see artistic possibilities in industrial Maine. And I’m thinking about painting ferry terminals, fuel storage tanks and abandoned sardine factories.
So stay tuned. And if you visit Lewiston, come see “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape.”