Patricia Brace rehearses inside her performance space Wednesday at The Charles Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — As they walk into The Charles Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta, visitors are greeted by a large, wooden box resembling a room.

The box is 12 feet wide, 8 feet tall and enclosed on all sides but one, where a performer or visitor can enter Patricia Brace’s artwork during the gallery’s exhibition, “The Outbreak Project at UMA,” premiering Tuesday.

“I was thinking about the idea of surveillance,” said Brace, a lecturer at UMA and the Maine College of Art in Portland. “Contextually, it’s the idea of surveillance in homes now with the inclusion of Zoom in all of our lives. The constant virtual platform to the outside world, but within the confined space.”

Those who enter Brace’s space are encouraged to move how it makes them feel. A camera perched on top of the space will capture the artist inside and livestream the performance, continuing the idea of “being surveilled.”

She was inspired by the thought of the space to which she has been confined during the coronavirus pandemic. Lucky for her, Brace said, she was able to teach some students in person through small groups.

“I can feel out the mix of isolation and connection the space brings to bodily realization,” said Amy Rahn, the gallery’s director. “When Patricia was talking to me about this piece, I could see the whole picture of isolation and network togetherness has brought into a situation and how generous it was to give a space to reflect.”

Rahn is a professor at UMA and part of the team of local women curators who helped pick the artists for the exhibition.

Upon seeing the selections, Rahn said she was inspired by the artists’ work and their idea of what “outbreak” meant to them. The exhibition was open to artists across Maine, not just students and staff from UMA.

Rahn said the “uncharted” grief and difficulty during the coronavirus pandemic may have lead the artists to “new forms” of transforming their feelings to their desired mediums.

“On one hand, everyone’s first connection is through the pandemic,” Rahn said. “But one of the things that started to emerge for me is what sort of unconventional thinking, or making, or writing or doing might emerge from a time that was so confining and filled with grief and difficulty.”

“Gyre and Gimble” by Sally Wagley is displayed at The Charles Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

One artist, Sally Wagley, chose to explore a style of art she had never done before, and wanted to capture the feeling she first felt when the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago. She is a third-year art student at UMA who went back to school after being a lawyer for almost 40 years. Wagley’s desired medium is textiles, such as embroidery. She has shown her work at The Harlow, a gallery in Hallowell.

Taking a class in digital art made her want to try a different art form. She used Adobe Photoshop and old magazine and photo clippings she had saved. A photo of a bird wing, a squid leg and a bird embryo became parts of her artwork for the exhibition.

Wagley is exhibiting three pieces — “Gyre and Gimble,” “Mimsy were the Borogroves” and “The Wagging Clock” — that highlight how she felt as the pandemic continued.

“I made the connection to the pandemic, with the creepiness and the beauty and how I was feeling a year ago,” Wagley said. “It all dawned on us, sometime last April, that it was going to be a while. I think that was the hardest part — ‘Will my life return back to what it was?'”

“Satellite” by Ian Trask is displayed at The Charles Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

In addition to Brace and Wagley, 12 other artists are exhibiting their work, including a high school student from the Maine Academy of Art. Twenty pieces of art will be shown at The Charles Danforth Gallery, all focusing on the “outbreak” theme and what it means to the artists.

Through the coronavirus pandemic, the Danforth has still hosted art exhibitions. In September, seniors at UMA we able to show their works, and Rahn said UMA architecture students hosted a virtual reality exhibition in October.

Visitors are encouraged to go through the gallery at their own pace, while wearing a protective mask, and may enter Brace’s project one person at a time.

There will be a performance in the Stage on April 9, featuring four dancers. It is scheduled to be broadcast live on Facebook at 6 p.m., with another performance on the last day of the exhibition — April 30 — from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.


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