The Farnsworth Art Museum has announced that Alex Katz will be the recipient of the 2010 Maine in America Award. The award is granted by the Farnsworth’s Presidents Council to honor an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.

This year’s presentation will occur during the Maine in America Summer Gala, which will take place Saturday, June 26, on the downtown museum’s grounds. Previous winners of the Maine in America Award are John Wilmerding (2006), Andrew Wyeth (2007), Will Barnet (2008) and Robert Indiana (2009).

Katz is regarded as one of the most important artists of his generation. His works have been collected and exhibited internationally. Painter, printmaker, sculptor and draftsman, Katz has explored two main themes over the course of his long and successful career — landscape and the figure. It is his commitment to an essentially representational approach combined with his interest in rendering his subjects in flat, essentially unmodulated forms that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. These simultaneous interests, in landscape and portrait; and realism and abstraction, have guided his work for more than 60 years.

From the very beginning of his career, Katz has had a strong connection with Maine. Upon graduating from Cooper Union, he was a scholarship student at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in 1949. His affection for Maine was strengthened when he bought a house in Lincolnville, where he has lived and worked every summer since 1954. Not only has Katz forged a highly successful career as an artist, but he also has been a major donor of contemporary art to both the Farnsworth and the Colby College Art Museum. Primarily through the Alex Katz Foundation, he has given 45 paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs to the Farnsworth.

The 2010 Maine in America Summer Gala will feature a fabulous culinary experience by Swan’s Way of Lincolnville; music by Bruce Boege and his Bel Isle Trio, as well as Mr. Whoopee; and lighting and audio-visual designs by Ambience Lighting Services. Dress is cocktail attire. Cost is $250 per person.

Sponsorships are available. All proceeds help support the museum’s public programs. Seating is limited; to make a reservation, call 596-6457, ext. 143 or visit farnsworthmuseum.org/event/gala2010.

Visitors to the Farnsworth this year will get a chance to appreciate some of Katz’s most recent paintings as the museum will open an exhibition “Alex Katz: New Work” on Saturday, June 12 to be on display in the museum’s Morehouse Wing through December. This show will be one of the highlights of what should be an extraordinary and varied exhibition season at the Farnsworth Art Museum.

The year ahead

“Four in Maine: Site Specific” will run Saturday, April 17 through the end of the year. The second in a program of annual exhibitions devoted to artists working in Maine, this show, featuring the artists Jesse Salisbury, Kazumi Hoshino, Warren Seelig and Aaron T Stephan, will focus on sculpture with each of the artists creating a site-specific work.

Robert Indiana’s iconic “EAT” sculpture will return to the museum’s rooftop with its 400 flashing lights Saturday, May 1 and will remain through October. Also on May 1, “Rug Hooking in Maine and Beyond” will open to run through the end of the year. Organized by guest curator Mildred Peladeau, the show offers a thorough exploration into the craft of rug hooking, which most probably originated in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

“From Homer to Hopper: American Watercolors from the Farnsworth Collection” will run from Saturday, May 8 through Sept. 12. This exhibition will offer a chance to see treasured favorites such as Winslow Homer’s “Seven Boys in a Dory,” along with lesser-known works by many Maine artists.

“The Wyeths’ Wyeths,” running Saturday, May 15 through the end of the year, will offer a rare opportunity to see a selection of Wyeth holdings featuring stellar works by N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. Also opening May 15 to run through Sept. 26, “N.C. Wyeth: Poems of American Patriotism” will offer large-scale paintings that illustrate 16 of the best known poems about American history including “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman’s “Oh Captain! My Captain!”

The Arnold Newman Prize for New Direction in Photographic Portraiture is awarded annually to an individual for recognition of new directions in photographic portraiture. The winner, who will be announced Monday, May 19 in New York City, receives $15,000 and a solo exhibit at the Farnsworth. The “Arnold  Newman Prize Winner Exhibition” will run from Aug. 14 through the end of the year.

The Farnsworth Art Museum celebrates Maine’s role in American art with 20,000 square feet of gallery space and more than 10,000 works in the collection. The Farnsworth has the second-largest public collection of works by Louise Nevelson, while its Wyeth Center features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. For more information, visit farnsworthmuseum.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.