CMCA’s latest installation is like being adrift on a wooden sea

From Fettuccine to Hubris

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 12:30pm

ROCKLAND—If you want to take a walk on the wild side, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s large-scale, immersive installation, “Hubris Atë Nemesis” by artists Wade Kavanaugh, of Bethel, and Stephen B. Nguyen, of Portland, is something to behold.

The exhibit fully takes up the space of CMCA’s main gallery and treats the viewer to a sensory experience akin to walking through a fun house. There is an illusion of movement all around as one walks the pathway over the undulating boardwalk.

Kavanaugh said of its inspiration: “Our current idea came from a visit to the [Winslow] Homer studio, partly from the sea, but more from the landforms along the water’s edge.”

Asked how they did it, CMCA’s Executive Director Suzette McAvoy, said, “The artists had a design in mind and in our Art Lab you can see the wooden model they made in their studio in Rumford, where they literally used fettuccine to get an idea of layout.”

It took the artists and a team of volunteers and CMCA staff a little more than three weeks to create using 260 4 x 8 sheets of luan plywood, 250 2 x 4s and 200 2 x 6s. 

“Most of it was cut here,” she said. “We had a table saw set up in the loading dock, and the artists, our staff and volunteers cut the plywood into strips, before realizing they were going to need more. Then we then ordered another 30 or so sheets on top of that,” said McAvoy. “First, they laid down the wooden pathway which they had constructed off site in their studio, then they built the 2 x 4 framework, over which they layered the strips."

The artists only do large-scale installation work and this is the first time they worked exclusively with wood, all their previous installations were made from paper. 

The title of the installation, “Hubris Atë Nemesis,” refers to the narrative arc of Greek tragedies, in which Hubris, characterized as an arrogant confidence, transforms to Atë, a ruinous folly or madness, then ultimately to Nemesis, a force of retribution that resets the natural order.  

Kavanaugh and Nguyen were selected as the first recipients of the highly competitive Ellis-Beauregard Fellowship Award from a pool of more than 200 applicants and received a stipend of $25,000 in recognition of their achievements.

Though our photos and video give a glimpse into the installation, it must be seen in person to experience. “Incredible art exhibit,” said Penobscot Bay Pilot writer Sarah Thompson, who was among dozens of people invited to a special business reception to view the artwork on April 2.

“The moment I stepped on/into it, until five minutes after I stepped off, I felt like I was in a real boat. I never had art affect me so physically.”

For more information on this installation and on concurrent exhibits on display visit:

Kay Stephens can be reached at