A PART OF THE MAINE

As with many things, this whole adventure started with a conversation, between two friends, talking about a shared passion, In our case it was our love and fascination with the islands that lie off the midcoast of Maine, Matinicus and Monhegan, North Haven and Vinal Haven, Eagle and Deer - each with their own mystery and and each with a sense of history that we wanted to explore. We knew right away that we didn’t want to go during the summer, when the islands are teeming with visitors and summer people, We wanted to explore what these places felt like in the quiet of Winter, where you can find a sense of solitude but also one of community and belonging.

 The island screen and vintage-framed photographs installed at CMCA.

The island screen and vintage-framed photographs installed at CMCA.

PHOTOGRAPHIC INSTALLATION

View the images in the installation.

My inspiration to explore the islands comes from my own personal relationship with Deer Isle where my husband’s family is from. Connected by a bridge to the mainland, Deer Isle is not considered by many to be an island in the strictest sense of the word, but this wasn’t always the case. The bridge is less than a hundred years old, with construction having been completed in 1938. Before that time, the island was connected by a ferry and shared many of the hardships and challenges common to islands in the area.

Deer Isle has provided my family and I with a home from home, and each summer I find myself exploring the islands in and around Deer Isle. From the old homesteads on Eagle and the abandoned foundations of Hurricane, to the marshes of Pond Island and the old quarries of Greene, I have found myself increasingly drawn to these unique islands, each with their own individual character.

My work explores how family and personal histories and memory is reflected in the landscape and in the objects that we imbue with meaning. In an island context these issues are condensed as the history of each island has undergone often extreme change over relatively short periods of time. The sense of what has gone before is intensified and palpable and it was this connection that drew me to this project.

Framed in vintage frames, using a variety of photographic processes, I wanted to echo that sense of history and timelessness that one finds on the islands at this time of year. From the objects that are left behind and accumulate, to the empty vistas you encounter in the offseason, the land is embedded with a rich sense of that which has come before and that echos still.

the island screen

Anneli Skaar: I have spent a great deal of time in the last few years seeking out distant islands in the High North while all the while, the islands of Penobscot Bay have been in my own backyard. These islands, though not as distant as Greenland, Iceland,or the Svalbard archipelago, share a similarity inherent in places that exist apart from the whole--they are outliers in difficult, challenging, and in some cases, disappearing landscapes. I have an interest in the emotional geography rather than the complex history of these individual places.

Creating imagery that speaks to today’s connectivity and disconnectedness is a primary focus of my work and is well served by the symbolism of islands. The initial seed of inspiration for my Island Screen is the poem Renascence, by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892- 1950), the celebrated Rockland, Maine poet. The poem is familiar and known for its opening lines “All I could see from where I stood; Was three long mountains and a wood; I turned and looked another way, And saw three islands in a bay.” The opening lines, describing the view of the Penobscot Bay islands and Camden Hills, belie the nature of the rest of poem; the overwhelming despair when the emotional boundary between the self and the rest of the world disappears. In Renascence, islands and the mainland exemplify the world and its natural limits.

A painted screen fills a space yet divides the space it occupies in two. Its varied and practical use in a home give it an active purpose. Yet the very nature of the screen, with its two sides and folded planes, allows it to move to different configurations and has the ability to show different perspectives. The addition of the flotsam bronze cast bases on either end of the screen serve as literal anchors, but more importantly as a symbol of the combination of nature and man-made objects that serve to tether us both to a geographical place as well as to each other

artist book

 Letterpress book “Silver Glinting”.

Letterpress book “Silver Glinting”.

#theislandprojectme

 Detail from The Island Screen by  Anneli Skaar.

Detail from The Island Screen by Anneli Skaar.

The title of the installation, “ A Part of the Maine”,

is a play on words from a line taken from the well known John Donne (1572-1631) MEDITATION XVII Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: (Old English version)

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man

is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe

is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as

well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine

owne were; any mans death diminishes me,

because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

 Sal and Anneli on location.  Read more about the project on  our blog .

Sal and Anneli on location.
Read more about the project on our blog.

Matinicus was the first island we visited…

and there, a sign in the local church carries the following words, which speak to the nature of islands vs the mainland, be it in Maine or beyond.

“We are all found objects drifted here

To become something better, something more.”

The line speaks to the human need for connection and to the spirit of finding common ground and a sense of belonging despite boundaries. It is the core idea which became the basis for the installation.