For emerging Maine artist Holden Willard, inclusion in CMCA Biennial show, ‘is beyond my wildest dreams’
ROCKLAND – Maine’s most popular and longest-running (since 1978) nationally juried art exhibition opens January 28 at the CMCA’s Rockland Gallery. the CMCA Biennale shows 35 artists in all phases of their vocation. Some are local, some as far away as Germany, but all have a connection to this federal state and were selected by two judges from an applicant pool of 423 artists.
What does it mean for an artist to be included on this show?
For Holden Willard, a 23-year-old artist who was born at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, moved to western Maine at a young age and now lives in Portland, the opportunity, he said, is “quite simply beyond my wildest dreams.”
“To be honest, I pretty much applied because I thought I was going to get shot,” Willard said. “I applied to a number of Maine residencies last year and have consistently received rejections. It was pretty much out of curiosity, some friends of mine applied too so I just wanted to see what would happen. I’ve been exhibiting in galleries since I was 19, so I’m very used to not getting opportunities.”
The doors that can open as part of the highly acclaimed exhibition excite him. Scary, yes, “but great things could lie on the other side,” he said.
And this is the first time his work a museum was shown. He made sure it was framed and immaculate.
“I’m a serial perfectionist, so it had to be right for the CMCA,” he said. “I am honored to be a part of this forward-thinking exhibition of Maine art.”
The judges were Misa Jeffereis, associate curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and Sarah Montross, senior curator at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is another non-collecting contemporary art museum, as noted by CMCA in a press release about the exhibition.
“There is a certain fragility and ingenuity within this biennial: artworks that resemble or use scrim, lace, patchwork and connective tissue,” Montross said in the publication. “They are scraps or fragments that are brought together through collage and assemblage. This sense of connectedness—of small, discrete parts that add up to a whole—extends to people: artists convey intimate, private worlds, memories, and interpersonal relationships, real and imagined, through touch, familial closeness, and tender humor.”
For Willard, the act of creating art is cathartic, which is why he works hard to make and display his paintings.
“The ultimate goal is to have my own studio practice and be able to make a living from it,” he said. “The tools I learned while working in a gallery, doing art framing and practicing professional conservation techniques have supported this desire to make it a lifelong career.”
He is currently working at two galleries in Portland, Greenhut and Cove Street Arts.
“This gig gives me enough strength to have a studio at Running with Scissors in Portland, but I’ll be looking for a new studio soon,” he said. “The community I’ve found in Portland is super supportive and encouraging. I couldn’t have made a better decision to return to Maine after college.”
Willard began cultivating his talents as a child by drawing and making cardboard sculptures.
“It annoyed my parents like hell, but I never really thought about being an artist until high school,” he said. “Like most teenagers, I was very suggestible, and when my peers told me that being an artist was unrealistic, I believed them. It wasn’t until my senior year of Windham High School that an art teacher, Jeff Bell, told me I needed to be a painter. He believed in all of us and encouraged us to pursue art school and a fulfilling career. One that he knew we yearned for.”
Willard took that to heart and graduated from Montserrat College of Art in 2021 with a BFA in Painting. He enjoyed school and intends to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts.
“School gave me structure, it gave me a way to constantly challenge myself and it taught me how to be a member of the community,” he said.
In college he studied under colorists Timothy Harney, Diane Ayott and Nicholas Mancini and it is evident in his use of bold and focused colour.
“They gave me a vast knowledge of modernism and previous movements in painting that led me to focus specifically on color,” he said. “I try to express the vibration of our environment through these colors, like how warmth might feel if it had a color. These ideas are disseminated by some of my favorite painters such as Doron Langberg, Colleen Barry, Jennifer Packer and to some extent Fairfield Porter and Alex Katz. There is a long tradition of figuration, and to walk in the footsteps of that story is overwhelming and very humbling.”
Willard also explores photography and values it as a source of inspiration for paintings, and “Collage reinforces a deep knowledge of ‘searching,’ a technique I was taught at school,” he said. “Originally developed by the modernist Hans Hoffmann, it was about activating the picture frame. All parts of this image interact and move among themselves. With Collage, you can see these connections and interactions very easily. My images have a deep connection to observation, both direct and indirect.”
He tries to work personally with his subjects, using drawings and small studies, only to then blast them into large pieces.
“Photography offers an immediacy that painters have tried to capture for centuries,” he said. “Think of the camera obscura, where a dark room with a hole in it can project an image upside down onto the opposite wall. This technique has been a tool for painters striving for proportion and orientation for hundreds of years. With all my mediums, including printmaking, there is a connection between all of them and something you can learn by going back and forth between them.”
CMCA will keep the Biennale’s art on its walls until May 7th Exhibition is installed on all 5,500 square meters of the museum’s galleries. New this year, preference was given to artists who have not exhibited at the CMCA in the past two years.
CMCA 2023 Biennial Artists include:
Rachel Gloria Adams (Portland, ME) Nick Benfey (New York City, NY) Philip Brou (South Portland, ME) Shane Charles (Bangor, ME) Shaina Gates (Kittery, ME) Elyse Grams (Portland, ME) Dylan Hausthor (Waterville, ME) Alanna Hernandez (Union, ME) Rebecca Hutchinson (Rochester, Massachusetts) Jenny Ibsen (Portland, ME) Michael Kolster (Brunswick, ME) Jared Lank (Portland, ME Nate Luce (Rockland, ME) Alex Luke (Santa Barbara, CA) Heather Lyon (Blue Hill, ME) Dafna Maimon and Ethan Hayes-Chute (Berlin, GER) Haley MacKeil (Providence, RI) Mandana MacPherson and Gigi Obrecht (Freeport, ME) Geoffrey Masland (Yarmouth, ME) Travis Morehead (Evanston, Illinois) Madeleine Morlet (Rockport, ME) Pamela Moulton (North Bridgeton, ME) Elaine Ng (Hope, ME) Anna Queen (Rockland, ME) Jose Santiago Perez (Chicago, Illinois) Ransome (Rheinbeck, NY) Mariah Reading (Bangor, ME) Lynn Richardson (Swanzey, New Hampshire) Brian Smith (Portland, ME) Juliette Walker (Farmingdale, ME) Holden Willard (Portland, ME) Erin Woodbrey (South Orleans, Massachusetts) Evelyn Wong (Portland, ME)
“These artists underscore the broad network of talented artists who call Maine their home or have significant connections to a particular Maine community but currently reside elsewhere from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Germany,” said CMCA .
The final selection of artworks and the curation of the CMCA Biennale 2023 was overseen by the CMCA’s curatorial team, Executive Director and Chief Curator Timothy Peterson, and Curatorial Associate and Exhibition Manager Rachel Romanski.
The opening reception of the CMCA Biennale 2023 will take place on Saturday, January 28 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with free entry to the reception.
Support The CMCA Biennale 2023 is made possible by grants from the Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as support from generous donors to the Suzette McAvoy Exhibition Fund.