Artist Announcement: Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is a painter and muralist residing in his hometown of Portland, Maine. He began emulating the work from his comic books as a child, but when he received his first copy of 'Subway Art', at age 10, his life became consumed by bright colors and bending letter forms. His current work is inspired by his experiences in graffiti culture and a pure obsession for letters; as well as conveying human emotions and insecurities using bold imagery inspired by traditional tattoo flash.

Here is an Interview we conducted with Ryan: 

 

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Ryan Adams and I am from Portland, Maine.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to be a ninja turtle, a lawyer and DJ. I’d say that I did a pretty good job following up on all of those.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

I am a painter, muralist and graffiti writer. My current work is inspired by life experiences and a serious passion for letters.  My watercolor pieces express the perpetual struggle: trying to navigate life and love as a grown man with the mind of a 16-year-old at summer camp. My series of acrylic letter studies use light and shadow to create movement and depth amongst geometric breakdowns of sayings and phrases.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

Dondi White, for showing us all how to beautifully bend and stylize letter forms. Steve Powers, for showing me that vandalism can still be creative and that those who partake in said vandalism can have a legitimate future that still includes letter obsession/study. Dave Chapelle for showing me that conveying human emotions and social issues that are often very uncomfortable to address, is best accomplished through humor and excessive flatulence jokes.

What is inspiring you right now?

Mainly my inspiration comes from the cornucopia of experiences and ‘feels’ that I have as I grow older and move on to the next phases in life. The uneasiness of not really knowing what tomorrow holds is a constant in my life (see, "anxiety" Merriam-Webster.com, 2011) and I like to embrace that feeling and really analyze and break down all of the feelings, thoughts, images and happenings that occur throughout my day. Also, Instagram and Pinterest.

What kind of environment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

I like to create in a space where I can have music playing very loudly and not judged for my intermittent dance moves. I may not be the best painter or the best dancer, but I am a serious contender for the best studio paint-dancer. As of lately, I have been listening to my normal, inspiring ignorant rap music (Future, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Travis $cott, ASAP Rocky), lyrical rap music (Run The Jewels, Kendrick, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom), classic rap music (Wu-Tang, Nas, Slick Rick, Company Flow), instrumental rap music (Dilla, Madlib, Flying Lotus, Pete Rock) and Rush – “Tom Sawyer”.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

The ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ wall at the Asylum in 2000 completely blew my mind. All of the distinct graffiti styles coming together to make one cohesive wall was something that I had only seen (or payed attention to) in magazines. I stared at that wall for hours. Also, the fact that it was created by these elusive figures added an extra bit of appeal.

How long have you lived in Maine?

Born and raised. Only left for educational purposes and quickly returned.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I really like how accepting a lot of the local business are to artists at all levels. Everybody needs that shot to show work and I think it’s awesome that you can pretty much find some place to show in town if you’re a freshman at MECA or showing at museums every month. I also like how the city is supportive of the working artist and the value they provide to the community.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

I’d like to see more people be rewarded for going apart from the heard and trying new things by the more big name outlets. Nothing stymies artistic progression like making people scared to try something new. It would be great to see more popular galleries, magazines, and websites that have the ability to showcase artists to a wide audience, take a chance on someone who is not as well-known or doesn’t paint Maine landscapes. They may not bring in the immediate dollars from the tourists/collectors that are looking for certain names or styles, but there will be those breakthrough gems that inspire others and move things forward.

What’s next for you? Anything upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

 I just had one of the craziest spring/summer/fall stretches that I’ve ever had. Winter is approaching and I have already chosen the pajamas that I will not shed until April 2016. I have some smaller mural jobs that need to be completed, then I plan on hibernating in my studio and completing a new body of work before the nice weather returns.

You can check out more of Ryan's work on his website here

Artist Announcement: Jenny McGee Dougherty

We're very excited to announce that Jenny McGee Dougherty is one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Jenny McGee Dougherty is an artist living and working in Portland, Maine. She graduated with a BFA in printmaking from Maine College of Art in 2005 and has since been teaching youth arts, traveling, and working in her studio experimenting with painting and textiles. She has been the Associate Director of SPACE Gallery, a non-profit contemporary arts venue in Portland, Maine, since 2010.  

Here is an interview that we conducted with Jenny:

 

What is your name and where are you from?

Jenny McGee Dougherty. I'm from West Newbury, Massachusetts.

What did you want to be growing up?

Is it cheesy to say an artist? it's the truth!

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech...

My Practice is very experimental. Every day is spent storing up a well of inspiration and ideas in my brain until I have the chance to get them out on paper- which is my primary medium. I have been painting with gouache and using collage to translate ideas that stem from the intersection of man and nature- I'm interested in how our our collective landscape is shaped through repetitive actions, large and small, and what begins to look like as a result. I am also deeply influenced by textile language, specifically weaving. I see these two investigative realms colliding in both conceptual and formal manners, and this has been the focus of my practice for the past several years.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

My work is clearly influenced by Bauhaus textiles and the artists who made them. I can relate to the experimental nature of this work- as well as the spirit of the artist of Black Mountain College. I guess you could say that I relate to these 'schools' of thought in a lifestyle sense, but also aesthetically. I don't think that the work I am making is entirely new- it's just that I'm coming to it on my own terms. Often I will come across a work of an artist from a 100 years ago and it looks exactly like something I just made, but I had never seen it before. This happened recently with a work by Swiss artist Sophie Tauber-Arp, as well as with a Kazimir Malevich piece from 1915. So, it is safe to say that I am also greatly influenced by geometric abstraction and abstraction in general.

What is inspiring your work right now?

I'm inspired by the intersection of daily life and artistic practices. I'm paying a lot of attention to craft and the use and facility of objects in our lives. But, moreover, I'm inspired by artists who are pushing the expectations of these crafts and providing new contexts for understanding the role of craft in the art world. 

What kind of environment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what's been in rotation recently?

I usually work best in my studio, which is currently a corner in my tiny home, and will soon be a whole room (!) in my new home. I need to have background noise- usually podcasts or music. I've been listening to a lot of Cambodian Pysch and a podcast called The Longest Shortest Time, which is about parenthood (I have a 9 month old baby). 

Have there been an murals that have had a profound impact on you?

I wouldn't necessarily call it a straight mural, but when Swoon and friends were in town back in 2009 and did a huge installation at SPACE Gallery, I helped them cut, paint, sew and install it, and I will always be inspired by their commitment, drive and vision. The way they incorporated discarded objects with wall painting and created something that consumed the gallery was truly visionary. 

How long have you lived in Maine?

I went to Meca from 2001-2005, moved to Oakland, CA and came back in 2008. So, a total of 11 years.  

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like that people are really supportive of one another's work. It's easy to make an impact, while experimenting with new ideas. 

what would you like to see happening in Portland's art scene in the future?

I'd really like to see some small, experimental galleries open up. We don't have a lot of venues for small projects that are weird or experimental. I'd also like to see more collaboration. With this city's size, it is totally possible to work on city-wide projects that can have a big impact.

What's next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

For the moment I'm working on building a new body of work. I've been in transition for the last year or so, so with my new studio space I'm looking to work on some new ideas. I'll be creating some textile based paintings and I plan on revisiting ceramics as a medium to explore pattern and dimensionality. 
 

Check out more of Jenny's work on her website here

Artist Announcement: Tessa Greene O'Brien

Tessa Greene O'Brien, One of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative will be one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Tessa was born in a small coastal town in Maine, and grew up surrounded by woods, fields, ocean, and artists. The landscape and the people continue to inspire her work.  She graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in studio art, and spent the next 10 years traveling the country and painting sets for music festivals. During this time she fell in love with large-scale painting and collaborative projects.

Tessa paints primarily on wood panels and walls. Her work explores themes of place, architecture, humor, water, and text, using layering, drawing, erasure, and color to convey her ideas. She often combines several mediums in a painting, including oil paint, latex, ink, watercolors, and guache.

Today she lives and paints in Portland, Maine, where she is working on an MFA from Maine College of Art. 

Here is an Interview we conducted with Tessa:

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Tessa O’Brien and I was born in mid-coast Maine but also spent many years living in Montpelier, VT.

What did you want to be growing up?

So many different things! Highlights would have to be professional figure skater, marine biologist, and author of detective novels.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

I am a painter that is currently using traditional methods of oil on panel to explore themes of contemporary life, memory, and the formal properties of paint.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

I am influenced by many of the Abstract Expressionists. Lyrical Abstraction, Neo Expressionism, and The Bay Area Figurative Movement also resonate with me. I appreciate the work of many Minimalist artists, such as Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, and Sol Lewitt, despite the fact that my work rarely reflects that interest.

What is inspiring you right now?

I just returned from a whirlwind NYC art trip, where I visited the Met, MOMA, the Armory Art Fair and a few others, and several galleries in Chelsea and the Lower East Side. It was far too much for a 5 day trip, but exciting to see what many other artists are doing. I was very moved by the installations and paintings of artist Subodh Gupta, and the draped paintings of Sam Giliam at MOMA. Outside of the art world, I am inspired by love, and the small ways that it is made visible in our daily lives.

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

My studio is a wonderful haven for me. I like to keep it hovering between messy and organized, with a comfortable chair to sit in and lots of books, for when I need to take a break from painting. I recently saw the artist Sinkane play at SPACE, and have had his latest album on repeat ever since.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

I love the mural culture in San Francisco. The city seems to have a lively mix of official commissioned murals and also some beautiful, unofficial pieces. You never know what you will come across.

How long have you lived in Maine?

I moved to Maine in 2004, fresh out of college, and have called Portland home ever since. I traveled frequently for work for the first 8 years that I lived here, so I really felt like a full time resident for the past few years, and have really been enjoying getting to know the community more.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like that there are so many talented, creative people living and working in the area. Many of the local business owners and residents are supportive of creative projects, and new ideas are often welcomes. While Portland is not an inexpensive city, it is relatively easy to navigate and live comfortably in, without making great sacrifices in quality of life.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

I would like to see more contemporary art galleries open and active, as well as more non-traditional art spaces. I hope that our mural project can be a part of this growth, and be another positive opportunity for artists.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

I will be showing new paintings at The Oxbow Tasting Room on Washington Ave later this spring, and will be part of a group show at Engine in Biddeford in July, called Ode to Letters.
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Check out more of Tessa's work on her website here

Artist Announcement: Will Sears

Will Sears, one of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative will be one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Will was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he began making art at an early age. He received a BFA after studying painting at Syracuse University. He now lives and works in Portland, where he runs a successful sign-painting business. You can see his hand-painted signs and advertisements adorning the facades of several local businesses and restaurants. He worked as a gallery assistant at Aucocisco, where he met many great Maine artists, and gained insight into the contemporary art world. Sears maintains a regular studio practice, and is an active part of numerous creative projects around town.

Sears works primarily in assemblage, drawing upon the rich tradition of assemblage artists such as Louise Nevelson, Bernard Langlais, and Robert Rauschenberg. His work utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, the viewer’s focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Sears carefully selects materials for their meaning, using found wood and ephemera of daily life. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Sears uses the visual chaos of deconstructed and rearranged signage, found materials, and painted elements to comment of the overwhelming nature of contemporary visual culture. His thoughtful compositions and restrained color palate are evidence of his desire to break up the daily barrage of sensory input and find beauty in the outcome.

Here is an Interview we conducted with Will: 

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Will Sears. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’ve been living in Portland, Maine now, coming up on 5 years.

What did you want to be growing up?

At first I wanted to be a grocery store, ( like the store itself, not a clerk ). Then pretty quickly after that I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

My work is typically in the form of an assemblage. It utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, your focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

Stuart Davis, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Bernard Langlais, Margaret Kilgallen. I know that’s 5 but it was hard to take any of these artists off the list. There are so many more as well but that conversation can go on for quite some time

What is inspiring you right now?

I’ve been really drawn towards simpler compositions – often times it requires a lot of restraint to stop at a point where a piece has a dynamic feel but minimal content.

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

Typically I like to create while I’m in my own little world… peace and quite are good for contemplation and planning, but when production is underway I like to have music playing and as long as there is no precision lines being executed, I find myself dancing a lot when things are going well. My latest playlist has included music from; William Onyeabor, Sinkane, Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Boi, Mndsgn, Jay electronica, Jay Dilla, Action Bronson, Beanie Sigel and Sean Price. Again, I could go on forever with this list but these have been the heavy hitters as of late.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

Two more recent projects that have blown my mind have been Maya Hayuk’s mural in Wynwood Walls compound. The looseness of the hand made strokes put into the tightness of a well thought out composition really excited me. Also, although it’s a series of 50 murals, not 1, Steve Power’s Love letters to Philadelphia. I was really drawn to the fact that it was such a big project and was executed well with the blessing of a major institution.

How long have you lived in Maine?

Coming up on 5 years in June of 2015.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like the pace of life here. I like the fact that it’s not yet impossible to live here on an artist’s budget. I think there are a lot of really strong artists here. Space Gallery is a really nice contribution to the art scene here. They do a terrific job.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

Besides seeing more public contemporary art (obviously), I’d love to see more Galleries open up that exhibit work that extends beyond the conversation of traditional landscape paintings. (that’s not to criticize that side of things, but Portland does a good job with that so there’s no real need for improvement there). Also, I'd like to see an establishment that is willing to work with more emerging artists rather then exclusively mid-career/ established artists. Obviously Portland would need people to support these galleries as well, so seeing a market more interested and willing to spend money on these types of contemporary works as well.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

  •  I'll be in a group show this July called Shapeshifters & Sharpshooters at 886 Geary in San Francisco curated by Sven Davis. 
  • I'm Co-Curating and participating in a show at Engine in Biddeford, Maine called "Ode to Letters" which will highlight work from letterpress artists, sign painters, and graffiti artists. The show will run from July 31st - Sept 19th, 2015. 
  • I'll be doing a sight-specific installation at Montserrat College of Art in October/November, 2015
  • Lastly, more work to further the Portland Mural Initiative

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Check out more of Will's work on his website here

Artist Announcement: Greta Van Campen

We're very excited to announce that Greta Van Campen is one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Greta Van Campen is a painter from Thomaston, Maine known for her contemporary hard-edged style. She comes from a family of artists and grew up painting beside her mother and father. Greta continued her studies in visual art at Bowdoin College. In 2011 she kickstarted her career with several cross country trips during which she painted all 50 states. She now lives and works in Portland, Maine.

"In my hard edge paintings, I strive to inhabit the space between representation and abstraction while also preserving an authentic experience of every place I paint. Each piece begins as a puzzle. Using tape and acrylic paint, I build up layers of color, shape, and line until I have found a harmonious solution." -Greta 

Here is an interview with Greta that we conducted: 

 

What is your name and where are you from?

 Greta Van Campen
I grew up in Thomaston and now live in Portland.  

 What did you want to be growing up?

 An artist and a doctor!

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech? 

I go to the studio and use tape and acrylics to make hard-edge paintings from photographs of places I've been and things I've seen. My work has abstract qualities but is also recognizable as where/what it really is.

 Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

 My parents, Susan and Tim Van Campen, definitely both influenced me a great deal. I grew up hanging out in their studios and learning the ups and downs of life as an artist.  My mom does watercolors and oils and my dad does abstract geometric paintings and computer art/design.  My style is pretty original, but it's definitely a combination of their sensitivities.   Other artists whose work has really moved me through the years are Calder, Matisse, Vermeer, and Morandi (and many others).

What is inspiring you right now?

 Thinking about spring and summer!

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

I like peace and quiet.  In my old studio, I worked from home and our house was on the Kennebec River.  I loved listening to the sounds outside - birds in the summer, and ice cracking in the winter.  At my Portland studio, I mostly hear cars going by.  Once in a while I'll put some music on or listen to a podcast. 

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

 I studied abroad in Italy and was completely awestruck by the murals, scale, and masonry every time I visited a cathedral. 

How long have you lived in Maine?

My whole life - apart from some time in Italy and the Netherlands and a couple years when I lived in Chicago.  

What do you like about the art scene here?

 I like that Maine has always attracted artists of all ages and that it's not pretentious like the New York art scene.  I like that there isn't really a "scene" here.  There are just a bunch of artists working and living in a beautiful place. 

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

 I'd like to see another contemporary gallery or art center pushing boundaries. I'd like to see more connection between southern Maine and the mid-coast and even farther north.  I think CMCA (Center for Maine Contemporary Art) should do a pop up show somewhere in Portland.

 What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

I'll be spending the entire month of May at Brush Creek Arts, a residency in Wyoming.  Between now and then I'll be getting some new work to Dowling Walsh in Rockland that will be on display this summer. 

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to check out more of Greta's work, check out her website here

Inspiration: Steve Powers; Love Letters

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Adam Wallacavage 

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Adam Wallacavage 

Steve Powers, aka "Espo" created the Love Letters projects, which have manifested in Syracuse, Philadelphia, Sao Paulo, and New York City. The project is as he describes it "a very adult version of what graffiti is to me". He "meshed the elements of sign painting, wall painting, and ultimately graffiti," says Powers. The messages that he conveys with the mural work takes on the cadence of a love letter, often seemingly addressed to the people in each city, or even to the city itself. 

  Heres a quick video about the Syracuse Love Letters Project (sponsored by COLAB as a part of the Near West Side Initiative which is trying to revitalize the near west side neighborhood of Syracuse. )

The Philadelphia edition of Love Letters was in partnership with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (who we will be featuring in a blog entry coming up if you'd like to read more). The Project contained a series of 50 murals that were located on the rooftops, and walls along the Market Frankford "El" line. Historically the walls had been occupied by similar color and design of the graffiti from locals artists, done in the late 70's, 80's and early 90's.

 According to MuralArts.org , "Love Letter recieved national and international attention and has been profiled in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and PBS. Mural Arts continues to run tours of the project."

Slam Hype's Website has a visual map of which murals can be seen where from the El. You can view it Here

Check out more photos of Steve's work below, or check out the TED Talk video if you have time to watch:

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Adam Wallacavage

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Adam Wallacavage

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Becki Fuller 

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Becki Fuller 

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: flickr user "i_follow"

Steve Powers; Love Letter to Philadelphia. Photo Credit: flickr user "i_follow"

Inspiration: Haas & Hahn ; How painting can transform a community

Here is a project which we thought was a really cool example of how murals can transform communities. It is projects like this that have inspired us to want to see more engaging walls in our own community. 

Photo credit: Steve Weinik, muralarts.org

Photo credit: Steve Weinik, muralarts.org

Jeroen Koolhass and Dre Urhahn, two artists from Holland have spent the last 11 years doing projects around the world, From Rio to Philadelphia, that involve large scale public murals. The first project, which has evolved into what seems like the largest project of theirs started in Vila Cruzeiro, Rio. at first, the project was to paint 3 buildings adjacent to one another with an image of a boy flying a kite on the buildings. Upon completion, They ending up furthering the project by painting a house, farther up the hill, a bright color to match the other houses and adorned it with kite. This idea grew and grew as they continued to include houses in the landscape of Rio, involving the neighborhood along the way by throwing barbecues. These projects really brought life to what was formerly grey, unfinished walls. to learn more check out this awesome TED talks Video: