March 6, 2014

Caldbeck Gallery is pleased to exhibit the new work of Elizabeth Billings and Michael Sacca; the pair are the inaugural 2013 Artists in Residence to the George's River Land Trust.

Below is an excerpt from the George's River Land Trust Summer 2013 Newletter

"Meet Our Artists in Residence

Artists have long been inspired by the natural beauty of Maine, and the midcoast has a particularly long and strong tradition of place-inspired art making.  We are fortunate to have found a partner in the K2 Family Foundation that seeks to foster sustainability and create opportunitities for artists whose work incporates sicentific awareness and concerns.  And so it is with great pleasure that we are launching an artist-in-residence program!

The artist-in-residence program offers professional visual artists, performing artists, and writers the opportunity to pursue their artistic disciplines while being inspired by the area's extraordinary landscape.  The artists will have access to many of the Land Trust's holdings as a resource for creating new site-inspired or site-specific work.

Elizabeth Billings and Michael Sacca share a similar visual aesthetic, and approach their work from diverse vantage points: photography, cinematography and the use of digital media on one hand, drawing, gathering, weaving and installation art on the other.  Using the diversity of these techniques and the common ground of the Georges River, their goal is to visually portray the essence of the watershed and their connection to it through all four seasons."

Here's an excerpt from Elizabeth and Michael's blogpage  (billingsandsacca.comdocumenting their thoughts and work, season by season:

The Residency

Preserving wild lands and conserving our environment comes out of a deep connection with the natural world. Connecting to nature through a combination of digital imaging and work made by hand is the underlying concept of this residency.

Our collaborative investigation into the Georges River watershed concentrates on several Georges River Land Trust properties over the course of a year. Sharing a similar visual aesthetic, we approach our work from diverse vantage points: photography, cinematography and the use of digital media on one hand, drawing, gathering, weaving and installation art on the other. Using the expanse between these techniques and the common ground of the Georges River, our goal is to visually portray the essence of the watershed and our connection to it.

Our residency takes us through an entire year of observing seasonal changes in the watershed. In early December we made a visit to the area and identified the Gibson Preserve and Eagles Way Preserve as two potential sites for the residency work. The relative remoteness and large acreage of Searsmont and the expansive marsh, open woods and river access in Warren are rich with possibilities. We plan to continue to broaden our understanding of the range of properties as well as to walk portions of the Georges Highland Path and kayak portions of the Georges River.

The residency is composed broadly in two parts: the collaboration in the making and then in the exhibition of the work, both deeply exciting. Using our combined artistic techniques, we begin our outreach with a blog as a public journal/exhibition visually documenting our travels, reflections and thoughts. The blog allows and encourages regular and careful consideration of the progressing artwork. During the residences, we will invite the public and Georges River Land Trust members to local food potluck picnics on and beside the River and on other properties. In this way, we connect to the people and the food of the area and they to us. At the end of the year of visual exploration, our combined artwork and blog entries are edited together into a chapbook and an exhibition of the artwork, celebrating the watershed and the residency.
Red Pine-Scotch Pine

Warren white oaks trapezoid

We have spent years developing and honing our varied artistic techniques making visible our connection with nature. Having the singular focus of the watershed from two quite different artistic disciplines is both intriguing and challenging. A collaborative residency invites conversations to take place reflecting on the new body of work. This creates the potential to move our individual explorations more quickly and intensely. We believe taking this personal risk enlivens the work and allows for new creative paths.


Elizabeth Billings and Michael Sacca are the artists-in-residence for The Georges River Land Trust and K2 Family Foundation throughout the 2013 year.

February 25, 2014

by Daniel Kany

John Goodman's photographic prints are incomparably luscious.  The idea of an aesthetic texture such as Goodman's exquisitely soupy grains is like brushwork.  In some artist's hands -- say, Van Gogh or Monet -- style begins with the smallest bits in their pictures -- the brush strokes -- as opposed to artists like Andrew Wyeth whose critical textures are tied to the overal picture's high focus.


In his 2007 silver print "Father's Day/Coney Island," Goodman present a young couple sprawled in a chaotically suggestive pose on a beach blanket, angled off with their feet away from the viewer.  A bikini-clad young woman is on her back, passive but sexually spalyed as her man lies on his side actively engaged as a paramour in hot pursuit.  Their faces are covered with a towel for a bit of ostrich-like privacy -- which feels fully invaded by the seemingly stolen snapshot evidenced by the crooked-elbow shadow of the picture-taker.

But something is wrong.  The ostensibly-in-the-heat-of-the-moment couple's beach blanket is covered by long-blown sand.  Its wrinkles belie a wizened artifact more than ephemeral passion. And the beach is the hard-tack, black-sealed, creement-solid surface of fine-sand low-tide.  It's the grain of sand and photo.  It's a young woman's white knee pressing into the rich black upper left corner of the print.

This is no snatched kiss.  It's an extraordinarily complex and well-composed photograph shot with the final print in mind.  It is the soft white of her body against his chiseled dark form, the shape of the lovers' form on the sand, and the cacophony of textures and values that Goodman orchestrates into a symphony of formal brilliance.  It's about relative time -- as is all of "Black White + Blue.



This is the subject of the high-focus "Emma Mahler," an old lady standing in a weathered garage with a 1930's car.  Here Goodman plays the idea of age against something dated.  The car is old-fashioned, but the woman -- the undoubtedly sparky -- is aged.  We see ephemeral fasion in the design of the car and in her patterned dress and heels.  The plants of the garage are past their prime and the way they block it reveals the car is a relic as well.  All this forces us to check the date of the photo -- 1974 -- and recast Emma and her accoutrements against the age of the print.  It's an exciting process until you realize what 40-years-later means for Emma.  And then we see that Goodman isn't just clever, but profound.

At his best, Goodman's gorgeously grainy images play solidity and motion against each other.  In his "Dominoes/Havana," we see two hands flying over a set of dominoes to mix them up. With increased motion, there is more blur - the lively vehicle of graininess.  So the textures of the hands and closest dominoes stand in contrast to the sculpturally solid volumes of the untouched pieces in the middle.  The table, too, plays this game since the paint has been worn away closest to the players' hands. This is Goodman's complete human-touch metaphor: We see the grain and the wear at the edges of human touch -- in the objects as well as the photographs.

A particularly masterful print is Goodman's 1993 "Summer Shower/Tuscany" in which a man and horse shower after a ride. The man stands arch-backed and shirtless (and with his solid lower body in dark pants, satyr-like) under an outdoor shower while holding a hose on his equine companion.  Because the strong sun is behind the shower-supporting building on the far left, the drops and spray are in white sparkling high-relief everywhere against the contrasty-dark and silhouetted landscape below the light-burned sky. We feel the textures of the dazzling water: drops on the satyr-man and spray on the horse, as though shaking itself dry from a bath.

This is so much more than seeing and grabbing a picturesque moment with a camera.  This print is a reminder that photography is a complete art when the person behind the lens is also a master printer.

The other part of "Black White + Blue" is a set of color images from slides shot in the 1970's and 80's and printed for the first time in 2010.  This technological disconnet is fascinating -- since "archival pigment prints" (a digital process) didn't exist when the slides were shot.  Once again, however, Goodman employs these as a master of time.  He shows us a red-soaked cinema in 1985 with a cigarette machine that would have us date it years before.  A mannequin (or isit?) stands away from us nude but for a square of butcher paper taped to the window -- so contemporary but for the outdated "Bank Americard" placard.  In "Woman Driver, South Boston," we see a woman in curlers driving a car that, on closer inspection, has seen better days; the car inspires us to think harder about the makeup she's wearing: Is it there to make her prettier or to cover her nicks and dings?

"Black White + Blue" is a rich story of Maine photography.  At the Maine Media Workshops + College, Goodman (a student of major photographer Minor White) was an instructor of photographer/Pho Pa co-owner John Edwards.  But following a 2012 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it's clear Goodman is also a player in the national photography conversation.  Moreoever, Goodman's prices -- $3,000 for a print -- raise questions we don't have time to visit here, such as: Is the reason we don't have a functional photography market in Maine because of the disconnet with NYC bubble-market pricing?

Maine is soaked in great photography: not only through the MMW+C but Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, PMA and artists throughout the state.  This is the land not only of Berenice Abbott but Paul Caponigro and William Wegman, after all.  But the Maine photographic community has yet to connect with a local market.  Photography is here now; it just needs standards, leadership and time to find purchase in the market.  In a season when I have been writing about nothing more than photography, Goodman's "Black White + Blue" is a high water mark.