appreciating the collective power of local people banding together

South Thomaston artist’s Meeting Hall Maine on display at Maine Jewish Museum

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 4:45pm

Story Location:
Maine Jewish Museum
Portland  Maine
United States

PORTLAND — Michelle Hauser, of South Thomaston, is exhibiting a selection of photographs from Meeting Hall Maine that records for posterity the documentation of hundreds of meeting halls found throughout the state. The exhibition Meeting Hall Maine will be on view at the Maine Jewish Museum, in Portland, March 25 to May 7, 2021.  

This photographic exploration began in collaboration with Hauser’s late husband, Andrew S. Flamm (1967-2018). Hauser has continued on with their shared vision to adhere to centered compositions of frontal, side or back views and to sequence the typology of structures into groups. Grids and pairings invite comparison and also create an abstraction of architectural forms, according to Hauser, in a news release. At some sites three-quarter views of the halls were captured showing their relationship to other buildings in the landscape. The typologies mirror the clarity of a portrait, while the three-quarter perspectives evoke the experience of a particular place. 

The exhibition also includes work that appropriates signifiers used in ritual activities taking place inside the meeting halls. Together, these three formats offer the viewer a more complete photographic description: geographic location, historical and economic origins, symbolism, and present day condition and use.

This historic network of halls built primarily by volunteer societies: The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, The Free Masons, and The Patrons of Husbandry are active in Maine today in waning numbers, have shared goals to create nonpartisan and secular environments to foster solidarity among citizens across lines of class. Playing a vital role in communities across the state, these organizations represent the collective power of local people banding together into groups to achieve shared interests. Meeting Hall Maine aims to instill an appreciation and desire in others to preserve these vernacular structures as democratic forums for generations to come.
 
“Images of these lone buildings also reflect our time,” said Hauser. “One that implores us to be physically distant and to refrain from large gatherings, yet, the photographs also telegraph our human need to build structures in order to unite people together.”

In 1981, Hauser forged lasting ties to Maine at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, leading her to return to Maine to live and paint in a former Odd Fellows Hall in Mount Vernon. The hall served as an inspiration.  Extending her studio time there was the catalyst for winning a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. It was where she and Andrew Flamm first met. They went on to open Odd Fellows Art and Antiques, which specialized in vernacular photography, and the Material Culture of American Fraternal Organizations, which in turn sparked their idea for Meeting Hall Maine. 

Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts

Jody S. Sataloff Art and History Paviion at the Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101

Hours:  Sunday through Friday 12 pm - 4pm  Closed:  Saturdays

For more information about the show and Museum please visit:  www.MaineJewishMuseum.org 

or contact:  Nanci Kahn, Photography Curator - photography@mainejewishmuseum.org

For more images and information about the artist please visit: www.Michelle-Hauser.com