The University of Maine’s Zillman Art Museum is located in Bangor and boasts a myriad of modern and contemporary art. Currently, the museum is spotlighting multiple artists and their exhibits. These include Jenny Brillhart and her exhibit “Placement,” Kit Warren’s “Altered States and Other Stories” and Colleen McCubbin Stepanic’s “Gather.”
Each piece captures the viewer’s attention through different mediums and modes of expression. Brillhart’s work in “Placement” often focuses on inanimate objects. She paints chairs, beds and unidentifiable shapes.
“I am interested in showing the paint, as a material, as a subject and to build the painting up, much like the stacking of blocks,” Brillhart said. “This idea lends itself to a narrative concerning architecture, planes, and gravity. I am drawn to composition and design as much as I am to the subject, i.e., what the things actually are in the painting.”
When asked about her inspiration for these pieces, Brillhart cited her childhood and other artists.
“I grew up near a Shaker Village and even worked there as a teenager.,” Brillhart said. “The buildings are built with light in mind and I was always struck by the interiors. I also loved Vermeer and Andrew Wyeth’s paintings as a teenager. Both painters use light to form compositions and [I] believe they influenced me. Light and shadow are universal and a part of all of us and how we see.”
To create these pieces, Brillhart begins by visually constructing what she wants to capture in her studio. Her 2021 painting “Voysey with Substrate” contains geometric shapes with multiple colors.
“I often arrange geometric materials and furniture [and] linen in my studio to come up with ideas for paintings. Voysey was a designer of wallpaper and textiles and an architect in the late 1800’s early 1900’s. His patterns are in the arts and crafts style,” Brillhart said.
Although the aspects of light, shadow and geometric shapes are cohesive throughout Brillhart’s work, the actual subjects of her paintings vary. She has painted intricately stacked chairs, a mattress and a myriad of other unidentifiable geometric objects. Her work is on display in the upper floor of the Zillman Art Exhibit until April 21, 2023.
Stepanic’s exhibit titled “Gather” is located on the lower level of the museum. Stepanic’s work is unique in the ways it is constructed. Some of her pieces are three-dimensional and use unconventional mediums.
“My three dimensional works are created by cutting up old paintings and sewing them back together,” Stepanic explained. “Most of the paintings were made with either oil or acrylic on canvas with a few on linen. I like to use a lot of different materials so there’s also charcoal, ink and enamel on some of the canvases.”
One of Stepanic’s largest pieces in “Gather” is titled “Peak.” It is a conglomeration of colorful fabrics arranged in three-dimensional cone shapes of varying sizes. The piece extends from the floor to the ceiling, reaching onto the neighboring walls in a vine-like fashion. Stepanic’s inspiration for “Peak” came, in part, from the natural world.
“When I started cutting and sewing forms I was inspired by geology,” Stepanic says. “Rocks seemed to me like a metaphor for memory or experience. Peak was partially inspired by the rock formations at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. The de Chelly sandstone has incredible concentric formations and when I cut my first spiral out of canvas I was thinking about that sandstone. The cone shapes that make up ‘Peak’ are made by drawing a spiral on the back of a painting. Then I cut out the spiral and sew it back together. The current installation of ‘Peak’ you see at the Zillman took about 10 years to make.”
Another exhibit on display is Warren’s “Altered States and Other Stories,” full of paintings which utilize, in part, an intricate process of pointillism. Each piece’s background has one or two colors and is layered with complex patterns in a separate color, many being gold.
The Zillman Art Museum is free to the public and located in downtown Bangor. There will be new exhibits in May 2023. These include Meryl Meisler’s “Nightlight NYC, 1977-2023” and her “1970s Friends & Family,” Lesia Sochor’s “Body Language” and Nathan Brad Hall’s “Gold Dust.”
More information is available at https://zam.umaine.edu/.