Out of the Shadows: Perspectives on Ability

With over 100 works of art, “Out of the Shadows: Perspectives on Ability,” showcases the artwork of fifty-one Creative Work Systems artists with disabilities. The exhibit reflects a unique perspective on the world.

Pam Clark, Art Specialist with Creative Work Systems comments, “While each vantage point is unique, all the artists share a common distinction that sets them apart from others: their being considered “disabled.” However, it is their ability which truly allows them to be free in their artistic approach to capturing thoughts, images and perspectives on life, nature, and the environment in which they live.”

A variety of artistic media is represented in the exhibit, including watercolor, papier mache, acrylic, and paper collage. Jewelry and furniture add yet another dimension to this remarkable show. From a delicately beaded necklace to a six-foot tall papier mache giraffe, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Creative Work Systems, a comprehensive not-for-profit rehabilitation agency, serving the diverse and wide ranging needs of persons with disabilities, curated the exhibit. The exhibit is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Humanities Council, a private agency.

The Painters’ Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress

The gigantic “Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress”–known as “The Painters’ Panorama” because of the participation of painters from the Hudson River School of landscape painting — is one of the Saco Museum’s most extraordinary artifacts.

The panorama was a popular 19th century entertainment combining elements of painting and theater. Giant scenes would move across the front of a hall in this precursor to cinema. The “Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress” was considered the greatest panorama of its day (the mid 19th century) because it was executed by well-trained artists and included designs by Daniel Huntington, Jasper Cropsey, and Frederic Edwin Church, still considered one of America’s best landscape painters.

In 1848 two aspiring young artists connected with the National Academy of Design in New York conceived of the idea of creating an eight-foot high, 1200 foot long panorama illustrating John Bunyan’s religious allegory in 54 scenes. For Edward Harrison May (1824-1887) and Joseph Kyle (1815-1863), the panorama was a logical step in following recent trends in popular art and entertainment. Panoramas were at the crest of their commercial success in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

The project was a runaway success, selling $100,000 in tickets in just six months. The artists decided to make another, this time painted by Kyle and Jacob Dallas. With great reviews and high praise publicized along the route, the second version of the panorama toured the U.S. throughout the 1850’s. In its day, it was the Cadillac of panoramas, the product of the finest artists and illustrators working in America.

Last exhibited in the 1890’s and long considered lost, 800 feet of the painting were discovered in the collection of the Saco Museum in 1996. After its rediscovery, the painting toured several museums nationally and was described in the New York Times (April 4, 1999) as a “valuable and complex document”.

Colonei Thomas

Today it is an absolutely unique artifact. It is one of only a handful of surviving moving panoramas, and the only one to feature enormous, academically posed figure groups. Presumed lost for more than a century, it is a “missing link” to one of the rare moments in history when the pinnacles of the divergent worlds of fine art and popular commercial art were embodied in a single work.

John Brewster, Jr: Itinerant Portrait Painter

This exhibition showcases the largest known collection of paintings by John Brewster, Jr. (1766 – 1854). Born without the ability to speak or hear, Brewster earned a living as a traveling painter. Brewster’s straightforward, precise, and profoundly expressive style makes him one of the masters of American primitive painting.

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