Paint Schoodic

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Challenge your assumptions

This evening I will stroll over to PopUp 265: A Fresh ArtSpace in Augusta for the opening of Barbra Whitten’s The Usual Suspects. Since I helped her do the two-person part of her installation a few weeks ago, I’m looking forward to the final project.
A graceful old storefront on Water Street, PopUp265’s plate glass windows act like a kind of fish bowl, magnifying the contents. When I last saw the work, it hadn’t spread over the floor yet. How it’s going to work with a crowd is an interesting question.

The figures were painted in an intentionally amorphous way, giving the viewer lots of room to personify them in their own imagination. I immediately identified with one who seemed to be dressed in evening wear. I felt uneasy seeing this figure later with a pentagram on her chest, for a pentagram is anathema to my religious values. Will tonight’s visitors see past the symbols to personalize the figures, or will they be stopped cold by the symbols? Since this question is at the heart of the work, I’m curious to watch the interactions.
Whitten's earlier piece, now at the Maine Holocaust and Human Rights Center.
Whitten based her figure on a piece she did six years ago as a student at University of Maine at Augusta (UMA). This piece is currently on exhibit at the Maine Holocaust & Human Rights Center at UMA, in Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s Fourteenth Amendment.

The piece has particular resonance with the current crisis in American politics, where we seem to be interacting with labels instead of people. As Whitten’s artist statement says:
This work invites us to…
…EXAMINE important issues;
…REFLECT on our positions;
…IDENTIFY our values;
…CHALLENGE our assumptions;
…ACKNOWLEDGE our prejudices;
…CONFRONT our fears;
…RECOGNIZE our shortcomings;
…ADMIT our failures;
…ACCEPT responsibility for our choices;
…CONSIDER alternative viewpoints;
…ASK difficult questions;
…SHARE our experiences;
…EXPRESS our feelings;
…LISTEN to each other;
…LEARN from each other;
…FIND the good in each other;
…STAND UP for each other;
… APPRECIATE our differences;
…WORK for social justice;
…CHANGE our world. 

PopUp265 is located at 265 Water Street, Augusta, ME.  There are two artist’s receptions: from noon to 1 PM today and 6-7 PM this evening.

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