By: Abby Nelson, Staff Writer
Creative Portland’s “All the Great Trees” exhibition features paintings, mixed-media pieces, drawings, photographs and collages of 20 Portland-based artists. This year, over 200 entries were sent to a jury, who then voted those down to the top 20 artists. Two locals featured in the exhibit are James Flahaven, USM art lecturer, and Kaylin Cook, a former graduate of USM.
The opening reception was on October 23rd at 84 Free Street, the exhibition will be running at that location until April. People packed into the gallery on the First Friday Art Walk of November. Stepping in from the sidewalk, Cook’s realist interpretation of nature hangs across from Flahaven’s distinctive combination of geometric and natural forms.
Flahaven has been on the Portland art scene for several years. “My work is abstract, or non-objective to be specific. It is not meant to look like anything,” said Flahaven, “So I made this painting, and it had a trunk-like form and then these amorphous shapes that looked kind of like falling leaves.” Flahaven’s piece was titled “Swamp Magnolia”, which is befitting with the dark autumn colors it displays.
His art is inspired by 20th-century painters from Gustave Klimt to Matisse to Elizabeth Murray, as well as game boards, tapestries, tiles and graffiti on boxcars. “That’s a lot of sources, and my paintings can get kind of complicated as a result,” said Flahaven. This mixture of influence is evident in his art. “Swamp Magnolia” embodied his modern, abstract style. The piece was designed with a mixture of warm and cool colors, creating a dichotomous relationship with the other artwork in the exhibit. The colors provide an effective contrast with the falling leaves and the square patterns within the trunk-like shape.
Flahaven enters exhibitions locally and nationally on a regular basis. His work can be seen at the Saccarappa Gallery in the Portland area. According to Flahaven, the exhibition with Creative Portland was special because his former student was in the show with him.
“The best part of being in the exhibition was showing work along with Kaylin Cook. She is such a nice kid and a hard worker. I was really proud of her,” Flahaven said.
Cook was excited to be featured in this exhibit alongside other artists who valued Maine trees and landscapes. Her oil painted canvas piece, titled “Northern Loop,” features a soft display of pine trees deep in a small forest. The piece gives a feeling of peaceful seclusion. It displays as the pines cast shadows over the dirt forest floor while the sun filters through their branches.
“Growing up in Maine, I’ve always had a great appreciation for the natural landscape,” said Cook, “I wanted to create a painting that features a small portion of the trees and wilderness that I, like many other ‘Mainahs’ are fortunate enough to call home.”
According to both Flahaven and Cook, it was a memorable experience.
“It was a great show that I feel like showcased a wide range of interpretations of the theme, ‘All the Great Trees,’” said Cook. This exhibit provides an avenue for new and established artists to display their talents and support the community they live in. This is a goal Creative Portland strives to bring to the greater Portland community.
Creative Portland is a non-profit art agency whose mission, according to its website, is “to support the creative economy through the arts by providing essential resources, by fostering partnerships, and by promoting Portland’s artistic talents and cultural assets.” They feature two exhibits in their gallery per year and provide events, like the First Friday Art Walk, Arts in the Chamber, and an annual Arts and Culture Summit, as well as services such as professional workshops and fiscal sponsorships to contribute to the art community of the Portland area.