At the Academy: AAM’s Love Affair with Photography


If there was any doubt about the Academy Art Museum’s commitment to photography, the galleries of the art center in Easton this spring should put that concern to rest.

From a display of photographic additions recently added to the AAM collection to the exhibitions of John Gossage and Matthew Moore, the Academy has assembled a robust demonstration of the institution’s love affair with photography.

The Spy talked to AAM director Ben Simons and curator Anke Van Wagenberg for a small download on these three remarkable exhibits.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

Art Review: The Academy Art Museum’s Three Exhibitions Become Four by Steve Parks


The Academy of Art Museum transforms itself into a time machine, taking passengers as far back as 6th century B.C. all the way up to 21st century A.D., with three exhibits that are really four.

The large galleries that flank the museum lobby are devoted to “Recent Acquisitions: Photography @ AAM.” Among high-profile names in the space to the right is living artist Bruce Nauman, who says of his art, “I’ve never been able to stick to one thing.” Instead, he does it all—painting, sculpture, photography, video, neon, printmaking, neon. At AAM, he’s the subject of his own art—distorting facial features shot by Jack Fulton and printed with a textured bronze finish onto four funhouse images.

Cockeyed Lips by Bruce Nauman

Others in this collection, selected by curator Anke Van Wagenberg, include black-and-whites you’d expect from Ansel Adams’ aesthetic for natural beauty and Berenice Abbott’s documentary-style stills of urban life. But many of us, myself included, may pause longest at Ed Clark’s 1958 photo of the future president peering into his daughter’s eyes in her bassinet. 

JFK and Caroline by Ed Clark

Crossing the lobby into another gallery of “Recent Acquisitions”—all by John Gossage, among the foremost living American photo book-makers—are displayed along with a copy of the volume, republished in 2010 on the 25th anniversary of “The Pond.” The 47 images capture the counter-beauty of a neglected wooded area hidden in suburbia. Gossage’s project has been described as “a foil to Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden Pond.’ ” Hardly idyllic except for its unattended isolation. If you’re into that.

Upstairs, “Matthew Moore: Post-Socialist Landscapes” recall the Cold War era some of us glimpsed on black-and-white TV. But these scenes derive from Moore’s 2014 artists-in-residence at Lithuania’s Nida Art Academy. His haunting frames reveal urban and rural spaces in countries once occupied by the Soviet Union. Among these are “Discarded Icons: Memento Park, Hungary” with busts of Stalin and Lenin glowering in prison-like storage. Another “Discarded Icon” in Estonia finds a severed sculpture-head of Lenin sprouting from the ground in weeded obscurity. Other images reveal platforms in former Russian-dominated republics from which Stalin and Lenin statuary once commanded the view. Ominous superpower threats are amplified by shots of abandoned missile sites and forgotten nuclear bunkers.

Discarded Icon by Matthew Moore

Combat is hand-to-hand in the small first floor galleries where “Dressed to Kill in Love and War: Splendor in the Ancient World” resides on loan from New York’s Fortuna Fine Arts. Objects from centuries on either side of the birth of Christ feature Roman Empire warrior helmets, Greek and Hellenistic jewelry and decorative objects, plus photos of reliefs inspired by battle heroism and mythology. The exhibit’s romantic aspect is reflected in precious-metal jewelry rewarded to love interests of men on the winning side. If you really could go that far back in time, decline and stay safe at this under-glass peek. No cells, no indoor plumbing, no artillery to clear a path for your warhorse.

“Dressed to Kill in Love and War: Splendor in the Ancient World” Through March 31.“Recent Acquisitions: Photography @ AAM” and “Matthew Moore: Post-Socialist Landscapes” Through April 7, all at Academy Art Museum, 106 South St. Easton,, 410-822-2787

Steve Park is a former art and theatre critic for Newsday on Long Island. He now lives on the Mid-Shore of Maryland. 



Mid-Shore Arts: When Art and History Meet with Jason Patterson


College towns are typically blessed with, and perhaps even a bit dependent on, the academic version of “twofers.” With each talented faculty member recruited, there is a good chance that an equally gifted spouse or partner will be part of the package.

Examples in Chestertown are endless of this form of collateral benefits. A recent case came to mind when the Spy announced that Sabine Harvey, wife of Washington College’s Dr. Michael Harvey, had been appointed to run Chestertown’s beloved farmers’ market. This was just the latest of Sabine’s remarkable contributions to Kent County agriculture and gardening.

And this is undoubtedly the case with the arrival of Dr. Meghan Grosse,  a professor with the College’s communication and media studies program. Dr. Grosse’s partner, artist Jason Patterson, agreed to make the move East from his native Campaign-Urbana in Illinois and now has his studio in Chestertown.

In the months that followed his arrival, Jason almost immediately became Kent County Arts Council’s first artist in residence. A few months after that, he was invited by Sumner Hall to exhibit his art (on display until March 24), and around the same time became a Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow at WC’s Starr Center.

The Spy sat down with Jason at the Spy HQ in Chestertown for a quick chat about his work and the unique opportunities that come when art connects with history.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. More information about Jason Paterson’s art work can be found here.

When Diebenkorn Became Diebenkorn: An AAM Preview with Ben Simons and Anke Van Wagenberg


It’s not every day that the Eastern Shore is the host of a special exhibition of the esteemed artist Richard Diebenkorn. In fact, it might be safe to say this artist’s work as never been shown on the Delmarva Peninsula. All of which makes the fact that the Academy Art Museum will be hosting an exclusive retrospective of early Diebenkorn work is such a great thing.

Focusing on Diebenkorn’s early work as he deliberately seeks his own style in the 1940s and 1950s is the foundation of this particular exhibit that has been organized by the Diebenkorn Foundation. The AAM will be the exclusive East Coast venue for this stunning story of a young artist finding his way.

The Spy sat down with Academy Art Museum director Ben Simons and curator Anke Van Wagenberg foe sneak preview of this remarkable show and the exciting lecture program that coincides with it.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about ‘Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955″ please go here.

Art Review: John Gossage and Matthew Moore at the AAM by Mary McCoy


There’s some very intriguing photography on view in three of the Academy Art Museum’s four galleries through April 7. A roomful of newly acquired works by such prominent photographers as Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, William Eggleston, Lisette Model, and Bruce Nauman gives a brief taste of the startling breadth of photography’s range over the past century, but it’s the two other galleries, one with John Gossage’s work and the other with Matthew Moore’s, that will really leave you thinking.

Gossage is a well-known photographer living in Washington who taught at the University of Maryland College Park and who exhibits internationally. On view is “The Pond,” his 1985 series of black-and-white images shot in the vicinity of an unremarkable pond at the edge of a city. Unremarkable is the operative word, because Gossage focuses on its humdrum situation surrounded by ragtag trees, dusty paths and tangled vines bordering on a human landscape of suburban houses and their attendant chain link fences and power wires. A distinctly prosaic tableau is revealed that we know all too well is repeated thousands of times across the country wherever neighborhoods meet natural landscape. There’s nothing of the iconic richness and beauty found in Ansel Adams’s elegant “Cedar Tree and Maple Leaves” just across the hallway. Gossage presents these peripheral landscapes exactly as he finds them, brambled, scraggly, strewn with trash, and mostly overlooked.

John Gossage, image from “The Pond,” vintage gelatin silver print

But as you peruse these 47 photos (also published as a book), they get under your skin. However unremarkable their setting, they are photographed so skillfully, with such clarity of detail and evenness of tone, that their blandness seems almost exquisite. Every leaf, twig and blade of grass is clearly visible and acknowledged in Gossage’s photographs so that, perversely, they embody both the human longing for nature and our blatant disinterest in its existence. In titling his series “The Pond,” Gossage slyly built in an oblique but nagging reference to Walden Pond and Thoreau’s insatiable curiosity and Transcendentalist awe in exploring its every detail. In Gossage’s landscapes, the human presence is instead one of indifference, conspicuously devoid of any sense of wonder.

Upstairs, Easton photographer Matthew Moore’s “Post-Socialist Landscapes” bear some notable similarities to Gossage’s in that his photographs also draw their impact not from being beautiful, but from the deadpan, black-and-white austerity of their compositions and their crisp and intricate detail. An Associate Professor and Visual Arts Department Chair at Anne Arundel Community College, Moore shares Gossage’s fascination with the human presence in the landscape, but with a focus on how societies use landscape, particularly urban spaces, to manipulate our views of history. This series, shot during a 2014 residency at the Vilnius Academy of Arts’ Nida Art Colony in Lithuania, records the aftermath of Soviet occupation in photographs that fall into three categories.

Matthew Moore, “Stalin, Prague, Czech Republic, 2014,” pigment print

One explores the crumbling military structures that were used to maintain power. There are former bunkers and machine gun nests being slowly overrun by graffiti and grass. The disused blast berms on Estonia’s Turisalu Missile Base are now so blanketed with small trees and wildflowers that they resemble Bronze Age barrows, transformed into just another bit of history buried in the ground.

A second group records public spaces where statues of Lenin, Stalin or both once stood. In some, the only remaining evidence is a cluster of ornamental bushes or an odd stretch of vacant pavement, while in “Lenin, Vilnius, Lithuania, 2014,” a visible scar still remains in the form of a bare spot smack dab in the center of a plaza. In a shot of Letna Hill in Prague, the huge pedestal that once held a 51-foot-tall statue of Stalin overlooking the city below has been repurposed to support an enormous metronome whose ticking provides a constant reminder of Czech struggles under Soviet communist rule.

In the third category, Moore documents the temporary resting places of these statues. The effect is sometimes comic, as when he discovered a discarded sculpted head of Lenin in a backyard in Estonia between some rubble and a flowering shrub. Others, such as busts of both Lenin and Stalin stored on stacks of wooden pallets, feel far more ominous. Like Prague’s ticking pendulum, they hold a warning that without vigilance, the political pendulum might easily swing back again.

Moore’s work and Gossage’s create a curious dialogue. While Moore explores how we consciously use landscape to promote agendas, Gossage documents what may be an even darker side of human nature—how little we notice or care about how we affect the land. Although both artists can legitimately be termed landscape photographers, their works expose far more about human proclivities than about the landscape we inhabit.

BookPlate Presents Local Author Peter Heck


Peter Heck’s “Mark Twain mysteries” — photo courtesy of The BookPlate

Friday, March 8, the BookPlate presents local author Peter J. Heck reading from and discussing his Mark Twain mysteries. The event begins at 6 p.m., and admission is free. The BookPlate, owned and managed by Tom Martin, is located at 112 S. Cross St. between Play It Again Sam’s Coffee Shop and Janes Church. This is one of a long-running series of presentations by poets, novelists, and non-fiction authors at the store.

The series of six mysteries, featuring one of America’s best-loved writers as a detective, is set in the 1890s, and follows Twain as he travels around the United States and to England and Italy, solving murders. Peter says that Twain’s world-traveling career made him an attractive protagonist for a series of books because it allowed him to set the stories in so many different places. Also, he says, Twain’s biting wit and ability to see through pretensions of all kinds made him irresistible to write about.

A Chestertown native, Peter grew up as a voracious reader who benefited from a complete set of Twain’s writings that had belonged to his grandfather, Theodore Jewell. Other youthful influences were Edgar Allen Poe, A. Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ popular novels. After graduating from Chestertown High School, he studied English at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Indiana University. He taught for several years at Temple University in Philadelphia. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he edited newsletters promoting mysteries and science fiction for the Waldenbooks company. He also worked as an editor at Ace Books and freelanced at Baen and Del Rey books, where his writers included Spider Robinson, Robert Sawyer and Harry Turtledove. Peter has been a regular book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and Asimov’s Science Fiction for many years.

Peter Heck

Peter began writing the Twain mysteries in 1995, eventually publishing six books, the titles of which are plays on the titles of Twain’s own books. In order of publication, they are Death on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court, The Prince and the Prosecutor, The Guilty Abroad, The Mysterious Strangler, and Tom’s Lawyer. Twain’s adventures are narrated by Wentworth Cabot, Twain’s fictional secretary and the “Watson” of the series. There are minor roles for various historical characters, among them Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, and jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.

Peter also co-wrote four books in a science fiction series, “Phule’s Company,” with the late Robert Asprin. Peter returned to Chestertown in the late ‘90s, where he continued writing his novels. He also worked for 10 years as a reporter and photographer for the Kent County News. Beginning in 2017, he and his wife Jane Jewell have been co-editors of the Chestertown Spy. In addition to his career as a writer, Peter is also an accomplished guitarist — formerly with the local quartet, Col. Leonard’s Irregulars — and a founding member of the Chestertown Chess Club.

Copies of Peter’s books will be available for purchase during the event, and the author will be pleased to sign copies. We hope to see you Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the BookPlate.

Mid-Shore Arts: A Spectacular Monument Planned to Honor Fireworks’ Best Friend


It’s too bad that liberal arts colleges don’t offer undergraduate majors in the field of fireworks. If they did, Washington College would undoubtedly find itself as one of the top schools in the country.

That is mainly because of the research work of the late WC professor Joseph McLain. Already known for his pioneering work in WWII with the development rocket propellant formulas, smoke grenades, and underwater torch blowers, McLain used this knowledge to usher in an entirely new era of firework science and design.

While some would consider McLain’s passion for fireworks science-driven, the truth was that as a product himself of a liberals arts education, his curiosity was equally related to the art that resulted from this form of combustion.

His capacity of multidisciplinary thinking was one reason Joe McLain was appointed president of his alma mater in 1973,  all the while encouraging his former student, and later colleague, Dr. John Conkling, to rise to become one of the nation’s foremost authorities on fireworks.

The fireworks connection was always on the mind of his daughter, Lynn McLain, as she pondered a fitting memorial for her father’s work at Washington College. This only grew as she discussed her idea with college officials and local arts leader Alex Castro, and the result promises to turn out to one of the most spectacular public art displays on the Eastern Shore.

With much of the money in hand , and with the blessing of the college’s current president, Kurt Landgraf, work will start soon on the installation of “Radiant Echo” by Baltimore-based artist Glenn Shrum and his design team at Flux Studio. The goal is to turn on this light sculpture in time to welcome a new freshman class in the fall of 2019.

The Spy caught up with Lynn and President Landgraf in Chestertown a few weeks ago to get some details. We also were able to chat Glenn via Skype to understand how remarkable this addition will be for both arts and science community of the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. To make a donation to the Radiant Echo project, Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. Please sent to the Washington College Office of Advancement, 300 Washington Ave., Chestertown, MD 21620.

The Future of Independent Films in Chestertown: A Conversation with Alicia Kozma


Not so long ago, Chestertown faced a challenge of epic proportions. There had been no catastrophic fire, the Chester River Bridge had not collapsed, nor was this the aftermath of a one hundred year storm. No, the crisis at hand, which impacted almost every soul in Kent County, was that the community had not only lost its only movie theatre but there no indicators that it would be replaced anytime soon.

Fast forward a year or so, and all of that has changed now. To Kent County’s collective relief, the new Chesapeake Movies now offers five state of the art screens. The seats are filled, young parents are relieved that they don’t need to drive 4o minutes for kid matinees, and once again this college town can say they have this critical quality of life amenity.

But given that Chestertown is the home of Washington College, with a student, faculty and retirement community with a passion for independent film, how does the town fill this gap? The answer is starting to emerge in a terrific way.

With the establishment of the RiverArts Film Society, a core group of passionate film aficionados has begun making their mark with  monthly screenings of critically alamcined art house flicks. More importantly, the Film Society has forged a partnership with Washington College, and recently added Alicia Kozma, the College’s professor of Media Studies, to its volunteer oversight committee, and that is when things became really exciting for Chestertown.

It turns out that Alicia has done this before. While attending the University of Illinois for her Ph.D., she volunteered to help form the Champaign-Urbana Film Society in Urbana, now a beloved part of the town-gown film world there. And not missing a beat, she has already arranged with Chesapeake Movies to use one of their theaters for Film Society screenings.

The Spy was delighted Alicia agreed to a Spy interview on the subject of film in Chestertown and caught up with her at the Spy HQ on Queen Street last week.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the RiverArts Film Society please go here.








Spy Minute: RiverArts March Show


“I think of drawing as a dance and a dance is a drawing in space.”
Romanian artist, Geta Bratescu

The term drawing is applied to works that vary greatly in technique. It has been understood in different ways at different times and is difficult to define. During the Renaissance the term ‘disegno’ implied drawing both as a technique to be distinguished from coloring and also as the creative idea made visible in the preliminary sketch.

To accompany this exhibit, RiverArts will host a Creative Lives talk on Thursday, March 7, by A. T. Moffett, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington College. This event will include a brief dance performance by her students. A limited number of RiverArts member artists will be allowed to sketch at student rehearsals in the months prior to the event.

Open Reception/First Friday: March 1, 2019
Creative Lives Talk & Dance Presentation: Thursday, March 7, @ 6:00
Curator’s/Artists’ Talk: Thursday, March 14, @ 5:30

Video produced by David Hegland

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