A Distant Holla: Illuminating Overlooked Narratives at the Portland Museum of Art

After a rowdy, 45-minute bus ride from Wiscasset to Portland, we arrived at the Portland Museum of Art for our highly anticipated art field trip to the 2018 Biennial. After donning pink stickers and milling about in the lobby, we were given the opportunity to look around the museum. Very Chewonki-like, classmates pointed out familiar species of birds they saw in the paintings. A piece inspired by A Midsummer’s Night Dream took up an entire wall and came with a headset equipped with classical music. After lots of exploring, we ambled down to the biennial exhibition floor and Daniel Minter arrived, the man we had all been waiting for. Sue, our art teacher, kindly informed us of his arrival and we could feel the excitement build. He had his back turned to us and his arms gesturing to the work in front of him. Titled A Distant Holla, Daniel’s piece is an impressive assemblage of painting, brooms, carvings, and other found objects covering an entire wall of the biennial. He wore a fedora, black button down and round glasses. As we came near, Daniel could be heard speaking in soft conversation, which quickly revealed his deep pride and enthusiasm for to the work standing in front of him.

Daniel’s piece uses several themes and mediums to illustrate stories of people of color throughout different time periods, from his childhood friends to enslaved men and women who were forced to come to the United States before the civil war. He graciously answered our many questions pertaining to both his piece and his life. When asked about the theme of slavery throughout his piece, he eloquently expressed how slavery is embedded in life like it is embedded in his piece. In the work, he had used metal cans and wood to create a metaphorical and literal slave ship, which was positioned on the wall high above the rest of the work. It was fascinating to learn about his process and how he composed the piece.

Any chance to leave Chewonki is refreshing, but the trip also made us miss the natural beauty surrounding us on the neck. Opportunities to meet artists have actually been quite common this semester, but the chance to see an artist speak in front of thier own work and ask questions that have answers was a rare and wonderful gift. Daniel Minter’s work introduces important and historically overlooked narratives from as close to home as the racial discrimination that occurred at Maine’s Malaga Island in the early 20th century, to the greater United States as a whole and our nation’s legacy of white supremacy. We were fortunate to have this be a part of our Chewonki experience.

Amaya, Milton Academy, Lexington, Massachuesetts & Charlie, Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Pacific Palisades, California

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