Cole, Mayers show ‘Men in Suits/Men in Trouble’

Jun 05, 2018
“The Great Escape” is a collage and gouache on paper by Kenny Cole.

Hallowell — The Harlow presents “Men in Suits/Men in Trouble,” a two-person exhibition featuring artwork by Natasha Mayers of Whitefield and Kenny Cole of Monroe, June 6 through 30 at the gallery’s new location, 100 Water St.

The public is invited to an opening reception Friday, June 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. The reception will be followed by a short preview of footage from an upcoming Maine Masters film about Mayers. Both artists and filmmakers Anita Clearfield and Geoffrey Leighton will be on hand.

Much of the work in this exhibit depicts men wearing suits or costumes in a seemingly unending array of scenarios. As articles of clothing tie their work together, so does the idea that the men are in trouble. The artists view a world in trouble, full of violence toward one another and the planet, with men, historically, at the center of the problem. There are the powerful ones who are intoxicated, gambling, dangerous, blinded, going headstrong without a plan; and those who lost not only their savings/jobs, but also their meaning, relevance and dignity. Thus the work reflects anger, frustration, a sense of the absurd, and analysis of what masculine power, white privilege and tradition have wrought.

“Men in Suits” materialized in Mayers’ work after the financial crisis of 2008, when the predatory practices that wrecked the housing market and economy came to light. The banksters were rewarded with bailouts and bonuses. Mayers inserted them into international postcard scenes; next, they inhabited her paintings.

“In these enraging times, with a red tie man in charge, I’m still painting Men in Suits, but they are becoming Men in Trouble … I’m expressing my outrage and disappointment about what’s happening in the world, trying to transform the anger that so many of us are feeling about power imbalances and injustice,” Mayers said.

Cole is convinced that being an artist, even a painter of flowers in vases, is a political act. His art confidently veers in to areas that are socially charged in an effort to open a dialogue via an art experience. For this show, he has pulled together a thread in his practice that explores masculine motifs whose identities have evolved via the guise of a colorful costume.

“The motifs or characters that populate my work have been written in to our collective cultural psyche to the degree that their identity can be recognized even from a small part of their complete costume,” he said. “Alas, they are all men in suits.”

The Harlow is a membership-based nonprofit, and exhibitions are always free and open to the public. Hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, visit harlowgallery.org or call 622-3813.

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

In a still from “Natasha Mayers: an Un-still Life,” Mayers paints at home … as one of her painted “Men in Suits” looks on.
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