People used to cross the U.S.-Canadian border casually, driving across the St. Croix River from Calais, Maine, into St. Stephen, New Brunswick with a friendly wave of a border guard’s hand. These days, border security is heightened and it takes a passport to move between the two countries. So it’s nice to be reminded by a pair of art exhibitions that folks on either side of the border have more in common than not.
Currently (through October 4), the Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport, Maine, and the New Brunswick Museum in St. John, N.B. are collaborating on Among Friends/Entre Amis, a joint exhibition of 11 contemporary artists, six American and five Canadian.
What these artists, selected from among artists who have participated in Two Countries/One Bay Art Studio Tour since 2007 (September 19-20 this year), have in common, aside from an artistic commitment, are the natural environment and the maritime heritage of Passamaquoddy Bay. Among Friends/Entre Amis is timed to coincide with the 33rd annual Conference of New England Governors and East Coast Premiers (September 13-15) in St. John and is being held in the foyer of the New Brunswick Museum.
The six Maine artists are abstract painter Arthur Cadieux of Eastport, Native American basketmaker Viola Francis of Perry, sculptor Richard Klyver of Eastport, ceramist and multi-media artist Elizabeth Ostrander of Eastport, jewelry maker Heather Perry of Robbinston, and ceramic sculptor Donald Sutherland of Eastport. The five artists from New Brunswick are textile artist Bertha Day of St. Andrews, pastel artist Michael Chesley Johnson of Campobello Island, glass artist Jon Sawyer of St. Andrews, ceramic sculptor Tom Smith of St. Andrews, and printmaker David Umholtz of West Isles.
In conjunction with the museum show, a pair of commercial art galleries, Aucocisco Gallery in Portland, Maine, and Peter Buckland Gallery in St. John, N.B., have collaborated on an exhibition of their own, Across the Border: Maine/New Brunswick Artists, facilitated by the Tides Institute and mounted at the Peter Buckland Gallery (through October 3).
Across the Border brings works by 14 Aucocisco artists – Michael Alpert, Dozier Bell, Kathy Bradford, Emily Brown, Greg Day, Grace DeGennaro, Nicole Duennebier, Jessica Gandolf, Terry Hilt, Hilary Irons, Michael H. Lewis, Mary Hart, Vivien Russe, and Alice Spencer – to St. John to be shown with works by 17 Peter Buckland artists – Werner Arnold, Darren Byers, John Donovan, William Forrestall, Angel Gomez, Suzanne Hill, Kathy Hooper, Herschel Kashetsky, Raymond Martin, Paul Mathieson, David McKay, Romeo Savoie, Nancy King Schofield, Stephen Scott, Tom Smith, Dan Steeves, and James Wilson. Only ceramic artist Tom Smith is included in both cross-border exhibitions.
Such is the universality of the contemporary art world and the impress of the North Atlantic bioregion that it would difficult to distinguish which artists are Americans and which are Canadian. And that’s as it should be.
[New Brunswick Museum, 27 Douglas Ave., St. John, N.B., 506-643-2300. Peter Buckland Gallery, 80 Prince William St., St. John, N.B., 506-693-9721]