Twice in recent months I have been privileged to provide introductory remarks before the public showing of videos about Maine artists I know well – painters Dahlov Ipcar and Alan Magee. The short documentary-style profiles are two of nine in the on-going Maine Masters series sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. If you haven?t seen them you should.
The Union of Maine Visual Artists is a non-profit art education and advocacy group founded in 1975 by artists I also know very well, among them Kathy Bradford, Maury Colton, Natasha Mayers, Abby Shahn, and the late, great Carlo Pittore. In 1999, UMVA started the Maine Masters video series “to support a vital contemporary artistic community and to inspire all people to create art and to recognize the value of art.”
The short videos are shot and edited by filmmaker Richard Kane. The videos present the artists in their own words and show them at work in their own studios. In order to document important artists while they are still vital and active, the Maine Masters series has tended to focus on older artists. Alan Magee, now in his sixties, is the youngest of the masters portrayed. The other eight are painters Robert Hamilton and William Thon (both now deceased), painters Lois Dodd, Harold Garde and Stephen Pace, photographer Olive Pierce, and sculptor Clark FitzGerald.
Maine Masters currently has videos about another eight artists in production. They are artist and illustrator Ashley Bryan, painter and printmaker David Driskell, painters Beverly Hallam, Yvonne Jacquette, William Irvine, and Carlo Pittore, charcoal artist Emily Nelligan, and sculptor Cabot Lyford.
In the beginning, UMVA was able to make the videos for as little as $5,000, but production costs are now closer to $20,000 per video, so it’s a minor miracle that they are able to sell these CD gems for $20 each to individual viewers. Libraries and schools are asked to pay $60, larger institutions such as museums and colleges, $100.
What the Maine Masters series represents is an effort by contemporary artists to record for posterity the lives and works of the artists among them whom they value most highly. To its everlasting credit, UMVA does not just document its own members, but I might suggest that founders Bradford, Colton, Mayers, and Shahn would all be worthy additions to the series, as would UMVA president Robert Shetterly, the artist-activist behind the hugely important Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series (about which more in another post).
You can’t buy a serious work of art for $180, but you can purchase a serious video archive of nine Maine Masters. My local town library is purchasing the videos one at a time, showing them at the town hall, and taking donations to buy the next one. A valuable grassroots way to support your local artists.