by: Ben Reed, Staff Writer
This semester, USM’s artist in residence program has welcomed Amy Stacey Curtis to the USM community. Curtis is an installation artist, whose art exhibits are built in the same place that they are to be shown to the public. Her current project, “memoir II: The Color of Memory” is slated to open March 26, and close on April 22.
The Color of Memory is manifested in the form of a neighborhood of nine small houses, each painted and decorated with furniture in their own respective colors. Curtis describes her artwork as interactive with its audience members. In each house, there is to be a book adorned with the same corresponding color as the house it’s placed in. Audience members may write a memory that is sparked from the color of the house. For example, someone who is examining the red house would write a memory in the corresponding book that is provoked by the color red.
This exhibit is also interactive through the way it is constructed. USM students and community members have the opportunity to aid Curtis in the construction of her artistic models. Volunteers have some creative liberty in how the houses turn out for the final product, which offers heavy collaboration between Curtis and USM students. In one of the house displays there is expected to be a display of extravagant lawn ornaments, while another may have structures related to raising chickens. “They are able to put their own flair into the houses,” Curtis stated.
Volunteers may be inspired to contribute to Curtis’ efforts through pure generosity or to fulfill class requirements. In some cases, it is a combination of both. Exhibit volunteer Donald stated, “I am going for my BFA. This is a class that will fulfill my last three credits…I’m doing this because I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to work with an artist who has done a broad scope of work…”
Curtis has said that this display is to be her hundredth installation. Her past work includes an 18-year long project in which Curtis curated nine exhibits in different abandoned mill buildings across the state of Maine. These exhibits had their own themes including: experience, movement, change, sound, light, time, space, matter, and memory. The various displays within these exhibits explored different facets of the general theme being covered. In her 2004 exhibit surrounding change, her interactive piece “shift I” instructed that participants bring personal possessions that they can part with forever. At each pedestal presented participants left these possessions, bringing home new possessions that were left by prior members. Hundreds of possessions were left and taken, Curtis’ website states.
Current and future projects are often influenced by aspects of Curtis’ previous work in an effort to push central ideas further. Curtis cited “memoir” as having a huge impact on The Color of Memory. In “memoir,” which was a part of her 2016 exhibit “Memory,” Curtis assembled 99 desks and stools with pencils and books that had a year inscribed on their covers. Participants were asked to write a significant memory that had taken place during the corresponding year into the book. Curtis plans to publish some of the anonymous retellings from ‘memoir’, as well as memories collected from ‘memoir II’, as part of different anthology books.
It’s hoped that The Color of Memory will allow audiences to reflect on their lives in the space, as well as contemplate. Curtis explained that people who have partaken in her previous shows often write to her, describing thoughts and feelings that arose following her shows. “It feels pretty awesome,” Curtis stated, “It’s often times something that’s much deeper. One of my pieces helped a mother figure out how to talk to her son who has autism…This show in particular will help people think about their past more.”
Amy Stacey Curtis’ “memoir II: The Color of Memory” opens March 26 at 22 Foster Street in Westbrook. If you would like to help Amy build her exhibit you can visit her studio in Westbrook or visit the Art Gallery on the Gorham campus for remote instructions on how to help.
If you would like to see Amy’s previous work, you can check out her website amystaceycurtis.com