SEE-November + December 2011
By Lauren Fensterstock
A Curator’s Perspective:
Shirah Neumann’s Untitled
2011, oil on panel, 48” x 48”
Shirah Neumann was born in Los Angeles, spent her childhood in Buffalo, and has since lived in Brooklyn, in Florence, on the Greek island of Corfu, and now in Maine. For an artist who has kicked around the globe, it is no surprise that the concept of place has become a central theme in her work.
• The site of this painting is Deering Oaks Park in Portland. The Oaks hold centuries of history: a bloody seventeenth-century battle, the wanderings of Longfellow captured in the poem “My Lost Youth,” and countless performances, picnics, and walks.
• This particular area in the park has long captivated Neumann. Her experiences in the park are mirrored in our experience of the painting, in which we see multiple days and memories all at once.
• In this work, the artist has built up many layers of paint. Like memory or geological sediments, Neumann’s paintings develop gradually through layering, revising, and obscuring. Like the places they depict, these paintings contain a material history of their own evolution.
• The fountain is an iconic feature of Deering Oaks Park. According to Neumann, “it turns the park on and off.” Although we perceive it as a singular object, the fluidity of the fountain is ever changing. And yet, the painted fountain seems suspended in time—a reversal of sorts.
• During one visit, Neumann saw an expanse of curtains fluttering in the Oaks while a crew was setting up for an event. They reminded her of Bedouin tents she had observed while traveling in Egypt. Here an actual scene of the park and an abstracted memory overlap in an inseparable image.
This piece will be on display and available for purchase at the Maine College of Art’s 37th Annual Art Auction on November 5. Please see the events listing on page 24 for more information.
Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art | 522 Congress St. | Portland | meca.edu