About Momentum

Supporting artists and presenting works of art by living artists has been a constant driver since our founder Lucy Copeland Farnsworth left specific instructions in 1935 to create an art museum. Shortly thereafter, in 1944, art advisor Robert P. Bellows acquired four watercolors by then 27-year-old artist Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009) from Macbeth Gallery. This purchase cemented the Farnsworth as one of the first museum acquisitions for the young painter. In 1951, the Farnsworth presented Wyeth’s first museum exhibition in Maine and in 1968, Jamie Wyeth (born 1946) had his first solo exhibition.

Momentum 2024 was funded by a challenge match from the Edelman Family Foundation and many likeminded individuals and organizations rallied to generously support this new and timely initiative. If you would like to support Farnsworth exhibitions and Maine artists, please contact Chief Advancement Officer Ann Scheflen at ascheflen@farnsworthmuseum.org or call Ann at 207-390-6002.

Momentum 2024
Emilie Stark-Menneg: Thread of Her Scent

Emilie Stark-Menneg,
the Farnsworth 2024 Momentum artist, in her studio preparing for her first solo museum exhibition.

By Jaime DeSimone, Chief Curator

I first met Harpswell-based painter Emilie Stark-Menneg in August of 2018 in large part thanks to her partner, John Bisbee, who invited me to meet the artist community at the Fort Andross Mill and partake in a communal lunch. Fast forward to the summer of 2022, I returned to Stark-Menneg’s painting studio to get lost in her fantastical worlds, luscious pours, and radiant colors.

After a brief discussion about the current work, I noticed a painting, Strawberry Moon, hanging high up above her entranceway. I had seen this painting before in the 2021 two-venue exhibition of the same title in New York City. In it, an oversized female figure devours strawberries, while menstruating under an ocean moonscape. During our conversation, she shared that it was being “saved” for a museum. I politely smiled and said something to the effect of, “Well, we’re a museum.” And, just like that on a warm August afternoon in a studio in Maine, a conversation would lead to Emilie Stark-Menneg’s very first museum acquisition. 

Photography by Alaric Beal

The Momentum initiative–an artist’s first museum exhibition–was designed to provide an opportunity for artists in their lifetime. The new exhibition series is dedicated to the next generation of artists with long-standing connections to Maine. Stark-Menneg has been living and working in Maine for over a decade; as she says, “From summer soirees to winter studio visits, the arts community in Maine has always been fun, supportive, and inspirational.”

Stark-Menneg’s curiosity, intelligence, and painting practice in and of itself make her an exceptional candidate for Momentum. As a painter, she imbues the histories of both maritime and figurative painting here in Maine with metamorphosis and magic. These dreamscapes are bursting forth with mythological Maine elements gone awry and drawn from craggy coastlines and wild seas to fields of blueberries and strawberries. Through a combination of painterly languages, poured paint, impastos, and translucent sprayed figures, Stark-Menneg creates exuberant and mysterious new worlds.

In February, the Farnworth will present Emilie Stark-Menneg: Thread of Her Scent for Momentum 2024. The exhibition will feature an impressive body of new paintings where she reimagines the stories of the unicorn in The Unicorn Tapestries at the MET Cloisters and The Lady and the Unicorn at Musée de Cluny. Woven around 1500, these historic tapestries celebrate a world of wonders with the mythical unicorn at its very center. Stark-Menneg’s paintings build upon these narratives, and as she writes, “rupture into an unruly paradise of plants and animals where the unicorn and the maiden can finally run free.”

The Farnsworth is pleased to launch a new exhibition series dedicated to the next generation of artists with longstanding connections to Maine. To promote the discovery, knowledge, and advancement of art, artists, and ideas from Maine in the 21st century, each year the museum will provide an artist with their first solo museum exhibition, acquire a work for the permanent collection, and publish a scholarly catalogue. The Farnsworth will work closely with selected artists to champion their artistic practices at a critical moment in their career.