Langlais exhibit, Art Trail open

Jul 13, 2014
A new website offers a way to road-trip around the state, enjoying the art of Bernard “Blackie” Langlais.

Waterville — The Colby College Museum of Art, in partnership with the Kohler Foundation Inc., has gifted a vast trove of artworks by Bernard Langlais to more than 50 institutions in communities across the state of Maine. To map and connect the artworks, the organizations have created the Langlais Art Trail to link the museums, libraries, parks and schools from Portland to Presque Isle and from Rockland to Starks, where Langlais’ artworks can be visited and enjoyed.

The Langlais Art Trail can be explored online beginning Monday, July 14, at langlaisarttrail.org. Concurrently, “Bernard Langlais,” the first scholarly retrospective of the artist’s work, will be on view Saturday, July 19, through Jan. 4 at the Colby Museum.

Best known for the iconic 62-foot Abenaki Indian in Skowhegan, Langlais (1921-1977) was inspired by his New England roots and deeply represents Maine through his paintings and works in wood, many of which are monumental in size. Langlais began painting in the late 1940s and early 1950s and subsequently worked in wood, catching the attention of the art world with his abstract reliefs. He became disenchanted with New York gallery culture and returned permanently to Maine in 1966, creating large-scale sculptures and reliefs in the barns and fields of his property in the Midcoast town of Cushing.

Constructing what he called an “environmental complex,” Langlais completely integrated his life and work in the last decade of his career. When Langlais’ widow died in 2010, she left his 90-acre estate and a large bequest of works to the Colby Museum. More than 170 artworks from this gift joined Colby’s collection, and the Museum worked with the Kohler Foundation and the Georges River Land Trust to ensure that additional artworks and portions of the property are maintained going forward. This partnership includes developing the Langlais Art Trail, a mapping project that outlines the distribution of nearly 3,000 additional pieces of the artist’s work to museums, public libraries, schools and other nonprofit institutions across Maine.

Local recipients include the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and Bay Chamber Concerts and Music School, Rockport; schools in Cushing and Thomaston; libraries in Cushing, Tenants Harbor, Hope, Appleton and Union; Waterfall Arts in Belfast; and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. A highlight of the Langlais Art Trail will be the Langlais Sculpture Preserve, owned and managed by the Georges River Land Trust. The preserve, being a portion of the artist's estate in Cushing, will be open to the public this fall.

Curated by Langlais Curator for Special Projects Hannah W. Blunt, the “Bernard Langlais” exhibition at the Colby Museum will feature more than 120 sculptures and reliefs; oil paintings on panel and canvas; and works on paper. Exhibition highlights will include early paintings such as “The Town” (1956–57), which depicts his hometown of Old Town; critically acclaimed works in wood from the middle of his career, including “Around Four” (circa 1959–62); and figurative reliefs of shore birds, raptors, horses, cows, bulls and other animals of coastal Maine.

In the last nine years of his life, Langlais populated his Cushing property with wood reliefs and three-dimensional pieces including more than 65 monumental sculptures, which will be represented by a display of working models, photographs and archival video footage of the Cushing property

“As the beneficiary and steward of the Bernard Langlais Collection, we are honored to organize the Langlais Art Trail, with generous support from Kohler Foundation, and to present the first major retrospective exhibition of this original and prolific artist,” said Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art. “We are so excited to share Langlais’ work with Maine residents and visitors and to encourage their exploration throughout the state.”

Based in Kohler, Wis., and founded in 1940, Kohler Foundation is nationally known for its work with self-taught art and art environments. The Foundation has preserved seven art sites in Wisconsin plus the Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden in Chauvin, Louisiana; Hartman Rock Garden in Springfield, Ohio; and the monumental Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas.

Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art comprises five wings, more than 8,000 works of art and more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space, making it the largest art museum in the state of Maine. Admission is free. For more information, visit colby.edu/museum.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.