Each year, the Farnsworth presents the Maine in America award at the summer gala. The award is presented by the Farnsworth to honor an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.
Presenting the 2019 Maine in America Award to:
Artists Rudy Burckhardt, Lois Dodd, Rackstraw Downes, Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Yvonne Jacquette, Alex Katz, and Neil Welliver
In the years immediately following the end World War II, a group of young, avant-garde artists based in New York discovered, like generations of artists before them, the pleasures of summering and working in Maine. The painters Alex Katz, his wife Jean Cohen, and their friend Lois Dodd were among the first, followed by the photographer and filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt and his wife, painter Yvonne Jacquette. The multi-talented painter-sculptor-installation artist Red Grooms came here with his wife, the painter Mimi Gross, and painter Rackstraw Downes soon followed. Neil Welliver was an exception to this gathering of summer resident artists, choosing instead to live here year-round, commuting to Philadelphia to teach at the University of Pennsylvania.
What they found in and around the midcoast village of Lincolnville was a simple lifestyle that offered a welcome respite from the often frenetic pace and all-absorbing nature of life in New York. An added benefit was it was inexpensive to live here, important to artists at the very beginning of their careers when financial security was something sought but far from a reality.. Importantly, they also found attractive subject matter for their work. Seeking an alternative to the Abstract Expressionist styles that dominated critical circles in New York, Maine’s coasts, islands, woodlands, and people provided them with an opportunity to forge new directions through their largely representational work based on what they saw and experienced here.
What they created over the course of the following decades was a body of work that helped each of them establish national reputations. Most, like Katz, Dodd, Downes, Burckhardt, Jacquette, and Welliver made their work in Maine a fundamental part of their oeuvre, while for Grooms it was a springboard for a long and successful career less defined by where his work was done.
This group of artists became one of the most important in the 150-year history of artists working in Maine, ranking with Fitz Henry Lane, Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, Frank Benson, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Georgia O’Keefe and many others. They re-established Maine as a source for artistic inspiration in the decades following the Great Depression and World War II, adding a vital chapter in the ongoing story of Maine’s role in American art.
Opening on April 13, 2019, the Farnsworth Art Museum presents Slab City Rendezvous an exhibition exploring their work in this critical period of their careers. Named for the road in Lincolnville on which Katz, Cohen, and Dodd bought a house together in the early 1950s, the exhibition is being organized by Farnsworth Chief Curator Michael K. Komanecky and co-curator Susan Danly, an independent scholar formerly curator of prints, photographs, and contemporary art at the Portland Museum of Art, with an essay by independent scholar Judith E. Stein. The show will be on view in the Crosman Gallery through March 15, 2020.
2018: Toshiko Mori
2017: Betsy Wyeth
2016: Joyce Tenneson
2015: Lois Dodd
2014: The Shakers of Sabbathday Lake
2013: Matthew Simmons
2012: Dahlov Ipcar
2011: Paul Caponigro
2010: Alex Katz
2009: Robert Indiana
2008: Will Barnet
2007: Andrew Wyeth
2006: John Wilmerding