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Exhibit explores spirituality in artworks made of found objects

David Matson, Heavenly Dispensation Bagatelle. Video accessible on website DavidMatsonArt.com, ©David Matson

Four contemporary Maine artists, including the Rev. David Matson, an Episcopal priest, are represented at an exhibit called “The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality” at the Charles Danforth Gallery, Jewett Hall, at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Matson and Abbie Read, Sally Wagley and Robert Katz employ diverse approaches to assemblage — artworks made of found objects — and represent different spiritual traditions. The exhibition was organized by artist and UMA Professor of Art Robert Katz, and is on view from Jan. 23 through March 8. The exhibition includes an opening reception on Jan. 29 and a Zoom panel discussion on Feb. 22.

The exhibition is supported by an original essay by Dr. Aaron Rosen, Professor of Religion & Visual Culture and Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary. In his essay, Dr. Rosen wrote, “The artists come from a range of religious traditions, from Katz’s Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn and continued study of Jewish sacred texts to David Matson’s vocation as an Episcopal parish priest. Despite such different spiritual journeys, the artists bring a similarly non-dogmatic, playful spirit to their works, sparking numerous interreligious parallels and dialogues along the way.”

In organizing The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality, Professor Katz explained the impetus for the show: “I received a fellowship and was working with found objects that had been accumulating in my studio. As I began working in assemblage, I was interested in discussions I was having with people working and using similar materials as me.”

Katz conceived of The Art of Assemblage as a public continuation of those conversations among artists. The exhibitions even include approximations of artists’ assemblage studios, bringing viewers into the creative process that reimagines miscellaneous things to create a new synthesis of objects, concepts, and even spiritual connection.

Matson explains, “When I became a priest, my prayer was that I may also be an artist. At the time, priest and artist seemed to stand at opposing poles. I have since come to believe that priest and artist fundamentally do the same thing: in either case, one stands on a threshold between the Worlds.”

Artist Biographies

Abbie Read

Abbie Owen Read grew up making art on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., inspired and guided by her mother Sally, who was also an artist. Read attended Kirkland College, then Oberlin College, where she received a BA in Studio Art and Art History in 1978. From 1982 until 1989 she taught painting and printmaking at Concord Academy. Living in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the time, in 1991 she got her MFA in Mixed Media from the University of Michigan School of Art. She has exhibited widely and has works in numerous private collections. She has had her work in international exhibits in Doha, Qatar and Hong Kong through the Art In Embassies Program overseen by the State Department. In Maine she teaches workshops and makes art in her studio in Appleton where she lives with her husband Bart.

David Matson

David Matson seeks the interplay of the absurd and the meaningful as a part-time Episcopal priest and full-time artist. His spiritual and artistic mentors are Jimi Hendrix and William Blake. He lives in Readfield, Me., with his small family and decent-sized barn.

Sally Wagley

Sally Wagley, of Brunswick, Me., works in multiple media, including drawing, stitching, collage/assemblage and text. She came to artwork later in life, after working as an elder and disability lawyer and caring for children and aging parents. Since 2012, she has exhibited at venues in Maine and New Hampshire, including two solo shows.
Sally’s fixation/obsession/preoccupation with visual images/ image-making began/originated with a visit to an art museum at age six, where she was both amazed and terrified by Renaissance paintings, with their depictions of scenes from the Bible, the lives of saints, and Greek myth. Her current work focuses on themes from those works, examining their relevance to contemporary life and ideas about gender and sexuality.

Robert Katz

Robert Katz’s sculptural installations often utilize a rich visual language to explore issues about personal identity and remembrance. His art reflects themes of exile, redemption and moral imperative.

His sculptures have been exhibited at the Jiangsu Chinese Art Academy in Nanjing, China; the Derfner Judaica Museum in Riverdale, New York; The Charter Oak Cultural Center, Connecticut, and his mixed media installation, The Five Books of Moses was recently installed at the List Visual Arts Center on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the designer of numerous Holocaust Memorials.

Katz has been the resident artist at the Seeds of Peace International Camp, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland. In addition, he was a guest artist at Oxford University and the Interfaith Programme at Cambridge University, England as well as the World Affairs Council, the Nexus Centre for the Humanities in Newfoundland and the Canadian Immigration Museum in Halifax. Most recently, he led a team of designers to create The Welcome Table Project , a landscaped memorial that commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Katz grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and he earned his undergraduate degree from New York University. In 1973 he moved to Montana where he established a studio practice and where he received a MFA from the University of Montana. For the past 40 years he has lived in central Maine. He is a Professor of Art at the University of Maine at Augusta and serves on the Board of Directors of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.

Aaron Rosen

Aaron Rosen is Professor of Religion & Visual Culture and Director of the Luce Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and Visiting Professor at King’s College London, where he taught previously. He began his career at Yale, Oxford, and Columbia, after receiving his PhD from Cambridge. He has curated exhibitions around the world and directs the Parsonage Gallery, exploring ecology and spirituality. He is the author or editor of many books, including What Would Jesus See?, Art and Religion in the 21st Century, and Journey through Art, translated into seven languages.

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