Over the past 40 years, Maine-based artist Duncan Hewitt has made his mark transforming often-overlooked domestic items—such as forks, pot lids, and windshields—into beautiful and enigmatic objects. Visitors can engage with these sculptures during the artist’s first major solo exhibition, “Duncan Hewitt: Turning Strange,” the latest in the Portland Museum of Art’s Circa series of exhibitions featuring the work of living artists from Maine and beyond. The exhibition is on view from through September 4.
“Turning Strange” borrows its name from Alice Munro’s short story “Walker Brothers Cowboy,” during a passage in which the main character visualizes the shift between day and night, when the familiar becomes obscured. This ethereal quality is echoed throughout Hewitt’s works, revealing his deep reverence for the power of objects to act as vessels of memory, while at the same time inviting viewers to re-examine their own encounters with everyday objects.
“The shapes that Hewitt recreates are personally significant but also universally recognizable,” described Diana Greenwold, PMA Assistant Curator of American Art and curator of Turning Strange. “His sculptures hold a residue of his own emotional processing, but they simultaneously afford audiences the opportunity to consider their own attachments to the material world.”
The exhibition brings together a collection of carved and painted wood sculptures spanning a 20-year period of Hewitt’s career, alongside new works. The artist’s sculptures show the evidence of his tools with visible incisions and marks, as well as alluring painted surfaces. Worn hockey skates and ski masks, billowing curtains, inflatable camping mattresses, colorful lollipops, and aged fire screens are some of the objects Hewitt has fashioned in ways that provide a personal look into the artist’s life. He also uses his materials in such a way as to challenge our ideas of the objects themselves—rendering items that appear to be soft and pliable from hard wood and depicting static representations of moving objects.
Born and raised in New York, Hewitt came to Maine to attend Colby College and returned after earning his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Hewitt was a professor of sculpture at the University of Southern Maine for more than 40 years and has exhibited widely throughout New England, including group shows at the PMA.
Circa is a series of exhibitions featuring the work of living artists from Maine and beyond. Generously supported by S. Donald Sussman. Corporate sponsorship is provided by The Bear Bookshop, Marlboro, Vermont. Media support is provided by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors.
The Museum is located at Seven Congress Square in Portland. Phone number is 207- 775-6148