Please enjoy these descriptions of our 2023 exhibitions
The Farnsworth at 75
Through December 31, 2023
Founded as a bequest of Lucy Copeland Farnsworth in honor of her father, the museum’s collection began as a modest holding of several hundred objects. Farnsworth at 75: New Voices from Maine in American Art is a two-part exhibition presented on the occasion of the 75th anniversary. The first part–Farnsworth at 75–reexamines a selection of objects that underscores Maine’s important artistic contributions to American art during its early defining moment. Paintings by Alvan Fisher, Martin Heade, Eastman Johnson, Fitz Henry Lane, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Marguerite Thompson Zorach will be punctuated by contemporary interventions by artists Jason Brown aka Firefly, Lauren Fenstersock, Steven Hannock, and others. Today the Farnsworth’s collection is nationally recognized as one of the finest repositories of American art.
New Voices from Maine in American Art unveils new acquisitions to the museum’s collection in the last two years. Organized thematically, these objects revisit histories, narratives, and myths about the sea, industries, identity, community, and places, both real and imagined. Artworks by Eric Aho, Elizabeth Atterbury, Katherine Bradford, Kathy Butterly, Ann Craven, Carly Glovinski, Billy Gerard Frank, Ayumi Horie, Erin Johnson, Daniel Minter, Emilie Stark-Menneg, Aaron Stephan, and Hannah Secord Wade offer thoughtful perspectives when viewed in dialogue with beloved favorites, connecting stories across time and media. As we celebrate Maine’s role in American art, how do art, artists, and ideas encourage us to see things anew?
Louise Nevelson: Dawn to Dusk
Through September 29, 2024
When I was growing up in Rockland from grammar school to high school, there was no museum. One of the great joys of my life is that we have a first-rate one now—a beautiful building that encloses creative works that can stand with the great ones. That is something that I had not expected in my wildest dreams to find in a town in Maine—that jewel that shines. –Louise Nevelson
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) wrote these words following an exhibition of her work at the Farnsworth Art Museum in 1985. In the four years preceding the exhibition, Nevelson donated 87 pieces of art to the museum, including 56 of her own works. Her brother, Nathan Berliawsky, and sister, Anita Berliawsky Wienstein, also made significant gifts, making the Farnsworth’s Nevelson collection the second largest holding of the artist’s work after the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
In advance of the Farnsworth Art Museum’s 75th Anniversary in 2023, the exhibition, Louise Nevelson: Dawn to Dusk, traces the artist’s formative years to her emergence as a sculptor of international renown through works selected from the museum’s collection. Included are more than forty works of art by Nevelson, from early paintings, drawings, and figurative sculptures, to later abstract painted wood constructions, collages, and examples of the artist’s unique handcrafted jewelry.
Every Leaf & Twig: Andrew Wyeth’s Botanical Imagination|
September 16, 2023 through March 24, 2024
Drawn primarily from the holdings of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art with work from the Farnsworth’s collection, Every Leaf & Twig presents over twenty never-exhibited-before watercolors and sketches of plant life that the artist found on walks and wanders throughout the midcoast, a landscape he knew well. The exhibition’s title comes from Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 book Walden. Just as Thoreau celebrated the often-overlooked beauty of “every leaf and twig,” Wyeth developed a painting practice grounded in time spent alone outdoors, steeping himself in the mid-coast Maine ecosystem.
In addition to watercolors, sketches and drawings, the exhibition will feature a letter that includes a spontaneous picture or drawing, the artist’s paint box, and the artist’s father N.C. Wyeth’s personal copy of Thoreau’s Walden.
Marsden Hartley and the Sea
October 7, 2023 through October 7, 2024
Painter and writer Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) was haunted by the memory of three young men who drowned in a storm off Eastern Points Island, Nova Scotia in September 1936, while he was boarding with their family, the Masons. He painted several versions of that remembrance, into imagery of clouds and a lone boat tossed by waves. Upon returning to Maine in 1937, he painted the rocky shorelines, birds, and fish of Vinalhaven Island and other fishing villages, where people were “so true and real like the sea and rocks.” He depicted the granite cliffs molded by the ceaseless ocean tides that, in their ebb and flow, sustain and take away life.
Marsden Hartley and the Sea brings together a selection of paintings inspired by the painter’s memory of Nova Scotia as well as other works made on Vinalhaven from the late 1930s. These works are contextualized with objects from the Farnsworth’s collection that also examine life at sea, both past and present. The exhibition makes rich connections to the fishing industry, maritime life, and the changing natural environment in coastal Maine.
Pope.L Small Cup
October 7, 2023 through February 4, 2024
From 1992 to 2010, performance and visual artist Pope.L (born 1955) was a Professor of Theater and Rhetoric at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Small Cup–created in 2008 in an abandoned textile mill–echoes his broader interest in using food products to address social and political issues. In it, a group of hens and goats gradually demolish an architectural model of a neoclassical building reminiscent of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Now part of the Farnsworth Art Museum’s collection, Small Cup remains a thought-provoking, gluttonous work 15 years later.
Farnsworth Mural Project: Rachel Gloria Adams and Ryan Adams
June 17, 2023 through May 1, 2025
Portland-based artists Rachel Gloria Adams and Ryan Adams will create the site-specific mural, You Showed Me Love, on the Farnsworth Art Museum’s campus. This collaborative project merges the artists’ signature styles of vibrant graphic patterns of natural worlds and gem-like lettering. You Showed Me Love draws from lyrics in a Frank Ocean song that was playing in the background of the artists’ first date. For them, this affectionate phrase conveys both personal and communal meanings. On the occasion of the Farnsworth’s 75th anniversary, You Showed Me Love presents a message of gratitude, hope, and positivity.
Alvaro’s World: Andrew Wyeth and the Olson House
June 17 through October 29, 2023
From 1938 to 1968, Andrew Wyeth spent time in and around the Olson House, a saltwater farm in Cushing, Maine. The artist became well acquainted with the family, often painting and sketching them and the house in what is known today as one of his most impressive bodies of work, in which the Olson children, Alvaro and Christina, recur as subjects. This exhibition examines the perspective of Alvaro Olson, an unsung hero who managed the 1870s farmhouse and cared for his sister through Wyeth’s watercolors. In the works on view, Wyeth captures Alvaro’s commitment to life on this remote peninsula, during a time when the Olsons were faced with rural poverty, environmental challenges, and regular upkeep of the farm.
The exhibition is drawn primarily from the Marunuma Art Park Collection in Asaka, Japan.
Preserving a National Historic Landmark: The Olson House
June 17 through December 31, 2023
This exhibition documents the history of the Olson House, set on a two-acre parcel of land in Cushing, Maine that became one of the most celebrated National Historic Landmarks in 2011, and also outlines the Farnsworth Art Museum’s ongoing preservation efforts of the Olson House over the past several years. In 2020, a Save America’s Treasures Grant was awarded to the museum by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and with support provided by the museum, to fund the first-ever Historic Structures Report (HSR) to be conducted for the Olson House. This report identifies a prioritized sequence of preservation projects for the site and offers a vision for its future. Preserving a National Historic Landmark: The Olson House presents new findings from this massive undertaking, highlights the historical significance of the House, and shares early preservation efforts.