Connecting with Art: Ann Morris

Samuel Fuller and E E Finch, Rockland Panoramas, 1850, Paint on cotton, 35 x 595 1/2 inches, Gift of the City of Rockland, Maine, 1950.719.1
Samuel Fuller and E E Finch, Rockland Panoramas, 1850, Paint on cotton, 35 x 595 1/2 inches, Gift of the City of Rockland, Maine, 1950.719.1

Interview by Farnsworth Curator Jane Bianco

Farnsworth Curator Jane Bianco recently sat down with Ann Morris of the Rockland Historical Society to understand which artworks in the Farnsworth’s collection Morris values most. A shortened version of this interview appeared in the fall 2020 Farnsworth magazine. 

AM: I love the way the Farnsworth presents Rockland and the Maine coast to the world. We get visitors from all over, and I think cultural heritage tourism is the biggest asset of Rockland. It’s so tempting for a museum to try to be bigger and better always, but the Farnsworth gets better by focusing on the greatness of the Maine coast, including its industries, many of them now gone. I love the sixth-floor gallery that has the work of local artists, beginning with the panoramas by Samuel Fuller and E.E. Finch, the Red Jacket ship model, paintings by Yvonne Jacquette and Carroll Thayer Berry.

I also love the work by artists who painted in Monhegan—Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, and George Bellows.

Of course, work by Edward Hopper and the Wyeth generations, and the good collection of photographs by Kosti Ruohomaa are great. I love the way the paintings and prints by Jonathan Fisher have been presented, and the current exhibition of book covers is so beautifully executed.

I love the ways the galleries are arranged. If I’m coming to the museum with someone who has never been there, I take them first to the top-floor gallery with the panoramas. But, if I’m coming for myself, I’m coming to see a special show, like the Shaker exhibition, or The Index of American Design show—or I’m coming because you’ve put up something new that I’ve just got to see!

JB: Do you find that we share some of the same audiences, between those who visit the Historical Society or attend events at the Millay House?

AM: As president of the Millay House, I love the collaborations with the Farnsworth in presenting programs relating to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay—the audience of those who appreciate poetry are also there to learn about a poet who came from this area of Rockland and Camden. I look forward to more of such cooperative efforts between our two organizations.

When Leith MacDonald [of the Wyeth Study Center] approached us for help in identifying places depicted in some of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings broadly labeled “Rockland,” that became such a delightful and fun project. We helped with identification and Leith ended up interviewing people who grew up in Rockland with stories about the places Wyeth painted. Leith added those recorded interviews as audio accompaniments to the exhibition he organized at the Farnsworth, and made it even more exciting. Many Rockland Historical Society members visited the show with friends and relatives.

Recently, our photography collection at the Rockland Historical Society was used to help identify the subject of an Edward Hopper painting which had always been misidentified. The Hopper connection to Rockland is thrilling to investigate, and when we identify historic houses in Rockland we often associate them, if we can, with Hopper paintings.

The Farnsworth helped us launch the project to get all issues of the Courier Gazette available to online readers, and as a benefit to Farnsworth staff doing research. But also, people from Rockland can connect back and read the news over the years any time of day or night, even in their pajamas! Rockland has always been a colorful, exciting place.

Yes, there is often a crossover between our history and art audiences. The Farnsworth Art Museum’s audience is much bigger and stretches around the country and the world, and Rockland history is probably treasured most by the local community. But one of our members does a Facebook page for people whose origins are Rockland, and who now live all over the world. That audience some day may help to make the Historical Society’s audience much bigger as well.

Ann Morris

Ann Morris is curator at the Rockland Historical Society and president of the Millay House, Rockland, Maine.

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