Maine photographers offer their interpretations of life in abstract show

“Lancaster” by CE Morse is part of the “Abstract Photography” exhibition hosted by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Photo by CE Morse

CE Morse sometimes hides a chuckle when a friend compliments one of his abstract photographs.

“That’s a beautiful shot,” someone might say. “What is it?”

“A dumpster,” replies Morse, who lives in Cumberland Center.

Once described as a boneyard hunter, Morse searches for beauty in the rust and patina of old cars, junked metal, steel and other materials. “I am interested in the vignette of things,” said Morse, who likes exploring junkyards with his camera. “I am looking more for composition and texture and less for subject matter.”

He is among nine Maine photographers whose work is included in “Abstract Photography,” an online exhibition hosted by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. A window display of some of the work is hanging at the Portland gallery, 516 Congress St., and UMVA will feature the exhibition on its website through February, though it will be available for viewing beyond that.

Other artists exhibiting are Lesley MacVane of Falmouth, Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest of Pownal, Dave Wade of Portland, Jim Kelly of Kennebunk, Ann Tracy of Portland, Mark Barnette of Portland, John Ripton of Kennebunkport and Greg Mason Burns of Brunswick.

Burns curated the show, as well. He invited each of the other photographers to submit four images that represent their interpretation of life, their feelings and their observations, all in the abstract form. He left it entirely up to them what to submit.

Dave Wade’s “Tokyo,” made with multiple exposures. Photo by Dave Wade

Wade submitted two “old school” images, made with double and triple exposures on film, and two images made with digital technology. Wade considers himself a representational artist, generally, and likes to explore abstract art as a way to stretch himself and expand his boundaries. It’s about experimenting without an outcome in mind, he said.

“Once in a while, it’s fun to step outside the box and see what happens and let something become,” Wade said. “It’s like seeing something and seeing what could be. There is freedom to this work and a form of playfulness.”

“Memories I” by Lesley MacVane. Photo by Lesley MacVane.

MacVane’s contributions to the exhibitions stem from the isolation of 2020 and come from her series, “My Isolation Has Wrapped My Home In A Cloud Of Memories.” Being alone has helped her re-engage with her past, she wrote in her artist statement. “Everything in my house has personal meaning, nothing is just randomly there. Each piece of furniture, picture, book, knickknack, has a connection to a memory. The whole has become a collage to my personal history. It has become my womb during this time of isolation,” she wrote.

She layers images one atop another, creating a dreamscape. “My photographs are an attempt to capture some of the emotions that these memories provoke,” she wrote.  “These remembrances bring forth feelings of melancholy, joy, warmth, and sadness. They are a memoir of a life.”

Greg Burns’ “Manipulation #4.” Photo by Greg Burns

For Burns, abstract photography gives him the means to explore his interest in what he calls “the interpretation gap,” the difference between what someone says and what someone else interprets. “I imagine that gap as a place, and that place drives a lot of my work,” he said. “I am trying to imagine what that place looks like.”

With this work, he is looking at how manipulation of the media creates emotional responses based on interpretation. “It’s an important part of our identity – what we choose to believe, see, and understand,” he said.

Burns has posted four images, but two are the same image repeated. “Manipulation #4” is a close-up of “Blur #4” and “Manipulation #5” is a further manipulation of “Manipulation #3.” “And that’s what I work on – that the original can mean completely different things to two different people, and therefore cause different emotions,” he said.

To view the exhibition, visit

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