Photo by David Jakacky.

The Lord Hall Gallery at the University of Maine is now featuring a new exhibition, “Surrender,” from Sept. 10 to Nov. 5. The artist on display, Christina Thwaites, provides gallery viewers with a variety of paintings and mixed media to enjoy, including an intriguing new type of artwork: immersive magnetic pieces.

Out of all her artwork on display, Thwaites’ favorites are the mixed media on panels with magnetic pieces attached to them. These pieces allow viewers to physically move around the magnetic pieces to anywhere that they wish.

“I have spent six years working on these and developing this concept,” Thwaites said. “To my knowledge, nobody is working in this way and it has been very challenging to make this work but very rewarding to see it finally in a finished state and being enjoyed by the public.”

Notable pieces of work that include the immersive magnetic pieces are titled “The Angel with a mask,” “If You’re happy and You Know it,” “Keep Walking and Remember to smile” and “Pink Dancers.” Examples of the moveable magnetic shapes include designs of feet, birds and even a duck. Many of the paintings that did not include magnetics were primarily done with acrylic paint.

The UMaine website notes that Thwaites’ pieces of artwork began with photocopies and historic photographs in an attempt to “get inside” the subject. 

Thwaites hopes that visitors of the gallery will come to appreciate the idea and uniqueness of her immersive artwork by actively participating in the narratives.

“I hope that viewers are engaged by what they see and ask themselves questions,” Thwaites said. “I hope they come away from ‘playing’ with the magnetic pieces having enjoyed being part of the creative process.”

When it comes to inspiration, Thwaites tends to lean on her primary influences in her life at the time she is working on pieces, making for a unique artistic style, as it will always be in motion, changing and growing.

“I am very ‘context dependent,’ so a lot depends on what is happening at that time in my life and around me,” Thwaites said.

Luckily, with the advent of the pandemic, there weren’t many obstacles faced when trying to make this exhibition possible. The entire “Surrender” gallery was postponed for a year, as Thwaites was home with her children when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

“My kids were home at the beginning of the pandemic, so doing any serious work was near to impossible,” Thwaites said. “When they went back to school, life was pretty much back to normal for me. I work alone in my studio so no social distancing is necessary.”

In the studio, like most artists, Thwaites works continuously until her artwork is just right. It is essential to make sure her pieces manifest the correct and proper message, feeling and overall experience to viewers.

“I want my work to be accessible to a wide audience, but it is not always easy to get the balance right,” Thwaites said. “I don’t want it to be too banal or whimsical, nor do I want it to be too intellectual or challenging. I try to get a balance between poetry, tension and ambiguity – both in subject matter and stylistically.”

Though she is not a student at UMaine, Thwaites is a professional painter, working with three commercial galleries in Maine. She attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, as well as Le Louvre in Paris, France, having studied French literature and the history of art. She then studied at the La Porta Blu Art School in Rome, Italy.

Currently, Thwaites lives in Orono with her two kids. She moved there from Australia six years ago.

For more information and updates on Thwaites and her artwork, visit www.christinathwaites.net.

The “Surrender” exhibit is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Nov. 5. The Lord Hall Gallery is handicapped accessible, and is free to the public to view. To keep up to date on new and upcoming exhibitions, visit umaine.edu/art/lord-hall-gallery-page.