AUGUSTA — Artists from Ecuador and Maine came together to create a collaborative printmaking art exhibit, with each of them ceding artistic control of a piece of their own creation to a stranger 3,800 miles away to finish.

At an opening reception for the exhibit Sunday at the University of Maine at Augusta, some of the artists said the results were a shared expression of concern for sustainability and biodiversity — the themes of the exhibit — stronger than they could have made as individuals.

“It brings attention and focus to key environmental issues we’re both facing 3,800 miles apart,” said artist Karen Adrienne, director of Circling the Square Fine Arts Press in Gardiner, as people crowded into the gallery inside Jewett Hall to check out the 90 original works of printmaking art on display. “We were able to do something as a community that as individuals was beyond us.”

The bilingual exhibit, “A Sense of Place/El Sentido del Lugar,” will be on display at the Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta through Feb. 19.

The exhibit is a result of a collaborative project by artists from Circling the Square Fine Art Press in Gardiner and Fundacion Estamperia Quitena, of Quito, Ecuador.

The artists, 15 from Ecuador and 17 from Maine, focused on sustainability, biodiversity and “the effects of the local on the global,” according to organizers.

Each artist created what organizers termed “intervention prints” meant to contribute to the theme of the project mixing local and global into one show. One intervention print was begun by each artist at both the presses, then sent to artists at the other press to be completed by an artist there.

Artists had no control over what the artists in the other country would do with their work. They were assigned pieces randomly.

“It was intimidating to tear apart somebody else’s work, and you had to give up some ownership” to have another artist finish off your own work, said Judith Long, a member of Circling the Square Fine Art Press. “But it was exciting.”

Long’s son, Timothy Long, lives with his family near Quito, Ecuador, and is principal of a school there. A co-worker at his school mentioned to him that his mother, Victoria Proano, was a printmaker, and Long said his was, too.

Judith Long visited her son’s family in Ecuador and visited Proano and the Fundacion Estamperia Quitena press there, taking photographs and making connections. When she came back to Maine, her colleagues suggested a collaborative project. Their Ecuadorian counterparts were not only interested in joining together to do so, they even came up with the theme of sustainability and biodiversity. Long said deforestation of rainforest and other environmental damage from oil production is a major concern there.

Each participating artist did one print on their own, created another to be finished by an artist from the other group, and in turn finished off the work of another artist from the other group.

Maine artist Christine Olson submitted “Atlantic Puffins,” a serigraphy piece featuring a pair of the birds landing in the ocean.

For her piece that was to be “intervened” upon by an artist from Ecuador, she created a linocut “Endangered: Piping Plover.” Once it was taken to Ecuador by Long, it was left to artist Giti Neuman to finish. Neuman added a black arrow sticking into the plover’s white chest, dripping what appeared to be oil from its wound into the sea below.

“It was a surprise, but fun, and interesting to see how she responded to it,” Olson said of first seeing how Neuman finished the piece she had started. “It was so fun the day we got all the prints” from Ecuador.

Adrienne agreed, describing opening the packages of prints as like unwrapping presents on a holiday, with artists excited to see what prints they would have the chance to finish. She said at first many were apprehensive about touching another artist’s work, but they grew to embrace the idea.

“This is all a conversation,” Adrienne said of the collaboration. “Trust and surprise is a wonderful part of that exchange.”

Long said their partners on the project from Ecuador weren’t able to attend the opening, but they had seen photographs of the exhibit on Facebook and were excited about it.

Proano, Long’s initial connection for the project, wrote in the catalog of the exhibit, which will be available at the bookstore at UMA, that the project is the result of more than a year of work. She said artists there went into the rainforests in search of designs for works that would allow them to create pieces that transcend language and distance.

“We have created works that recognize nature as the eternal model for the expression of art and as the sole guarantor of life,” Proano wrote.

The exhibit, in almost identical form, will open at the Metropolitan Cultural Center in Quito, Ecuador, in March.

After the exhibit concludes its run at UMA, it will travel to five other venues: Emery Community Arts Center at the University of Maine at Farmington from March 4 to April 17, Waterfall Arts in Belfast May 27 to July 15, Sotheby’s in Damariscotta Sept. 16 to Nov. 25, and Viles Arboretum in Augusta from Dec. 3, 2016, to Jan. 6, 2017.

According to a news release from UMA, in addition to Adrienne, Long and Olson, the Maine participants in the project, 10 of whom either graduated from UMA or have taken printmaking classes there, are Robin Brooks, Judith DeMilo-Brown, Christine J. Higgins, Diana McFarland, Rebeka Ouellette, Jane Page-Conway, Donna Parkinson, Ellen Roberts, Kris Sader, Susan Dean Smith, J. P. Strode, Sarah Vosmus, Lisa F. Wheeler and Barbra Whitten.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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