Parts of an Immense Whole… brings together a group of regional artists with diverse painting practices, each one connecting to various points within the long-arching range of Fiore’s painting career. Rachel Gloria Adams and Jesse Littlefield make bold, graphic, textile based work that connects to Fiore’s abstract collages and oil paintings from the 1970’s. Eleanor Conover shares with Fiore a fascination with rocks and geology, zooming in on the formal qualities of rock formations and deconstructing them with inventive painterly approaches. Jarid del Deo, Alice Jones, and Jay Stern each engage with observational landscape painting through unique approaches, pushing color, atmosphere, and form as they teeter between abstraction and representation, a zone which I consider to be Fiore’s sweet spot. Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy paints vibrant, dreamlike renderings of petroglyph figures, inspired by the indigenous Mi’kmaq rock drawing and quill weaving traditions. Fiore was similarly inspired by petroglyph paintings after a visit to the caves of Lascaux, France, creating an extensive body of symbolist paintings in the 1980s. Lois Dodd and David Dewey were contemporaries of Fiore, regularly venturing out on plein air painting excursions together, exploring quarries and fields around their shared territory in midcoast Maine. Fiore was a mentor and friend to painter David Dewey, who went on to become the steward of Fiore’s archives, co-directed the MFT Joseph Fiore Art Center, and published Nature Observed, The Landscapes of Joseph Fiore.
My initial visit to the Fiore archive during my 2018 MFT/JFAC residency was lead by David Dewey and accompanied by Lois Dodd. They spoke of “Joe” with fondness and affection as we pored over boxes of his drawings and paintings. I responded to an openness in Fiore’s practice, a willingness to try new ideas, break with past practices, and return to the studio daily, forever a student. When I had the experience of viewing decades of his paintings together in one space, the room filled with glimpses of other artists, past and present, and the idea for this show was realized at that moment. I saw an artist who was generous in spirit, and in conversation with his community, looking, listening, teaching, and learning. The artists in this show share that openness & generosity; each engaged in deep discovery within their unique practices.
- Tessa O'Brien