From Feb. 15 through March 8, the Lord Hall Art Gallery hosted their annual faculty art show to highlight the current works and projects of several professors from the University of Maine.
The show was an opportunity for students and community members to see what their instructors and peers have been working on, as well as create a space for those who teach to be recognized. The mixed media work of nine professors including: Connie Albertson, Giles Timms, Andy Mauery, Wayne Hall, Susan Camp, Robert Pollien, Samantha Jones, Kris Engman and Matt Smolinsky filled the gallery.
One artist featured was Professor Matt Smolinsky. His work included digital photographs taken over the past several years through which he depicts a unique relationship and perspective on the local Orono/Bangor surrounding community.
“They are a combination of things that could be on my walk … or I’m driving somewhere locally, Bangor to Orono, Old Town, in my daily life, and I see something. Usually, it’s something I’ve seen a bunch of times and I’m like ‘Oh I need to make a mental note to stop and photograph this place’,” Smolinsky said.
Smolinsky has been photographing mainly public, candid subjects for most of his career, which include work captured in Boston and Michigan, and over several years spent in South Korea teaching English. During his time in Korea, he had the opportunity to photograph a different culture in a dense urban area. Taking pictures of people in public can often elicit confrontational responses. In Korea, Smolinsky said that they were very open and accepting of both photography and Americans.
“I didn’t ever really feel threatened … Culturally it was an ideal place for someone like me to be,” Smolinsky said.
Smolinsky’s current work is a continuation of this candid public style, but the work featured in the exhibit involved no human subjects. Instead, his photos focus on houses, buildings and found objects on the street. Despite his shift in subject, Smolinsky found the process to be very similar.
“It’s public, it’s candid. I’m not staging it. I’m not manipulating the scene in any way other than my presence. It’s found,” Smolinsky said.
He quoted another photographer, Maine-based Cig Harvey, to describe his process saying, “There are finders and makers. People who find things in the world and photograph and people who create things in front of the camera. And I’m a finder, for sure.”
The things he has been inspired by lately have been houses which carry a special significance for him.
“For the most part it’s these houses that are lived in … and [with the winters] in Maine everything gets really beaten up physically and it’s impossible to keep things in a pristine state. And I found that really interesting,” Smolinsky said. “The places I photograph are pretty much where I live, it’s what I relate to in a lot of ways. I live in a house that’s in a lot of ways crumbling but I do my best to keep it up. There are cracks in all the walls and ceilings on the inside and there’s ugliness on the outside but it keeps me sheltered and its where I have most of my experiences so it’s an important thing to me. There’s character and spirit in there and there’s memories … one of the houses in my work could be and is my own house.”
The end of this exhibit welcomes another. The Lord Hall Art gallery is now preparing for the upcoming student art exhibition, which will open in April.