Published October 03, 2022 by Nora Sullivan Horner ’24

Two Alumni Artists Have Simultaneous Shows at Rockland Museum

Elijah Ober ’15 and Ian Trask ’05 have solo exhibitions at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) from October 2022 to January 2023.

Ober's exhibition brings together two bodies of work, “CALCIUM” and “Your Future Ex Squirrelfriend,” which together feature videos of snails foraging for calcium, a key nutrient in strong shell development, and carved Styrofoam squirrels.

Both animals are commonly considered pests. Ober’s work encourages us to more closely examine these creatures and, more broadly, reflect on the lands, ecosystems, and resources we share with them and the ways we relate to our environments.

Trask’s exhibition, “Mind Loops,” premieres a series of sculpture and installation pieces incorporating materials found in local waste streams. The sculptures emulate the role decomposers, such as moss and fungi, play in recycling matter in ecosystems.

 

Trask’s exhibition, “Mind Loops,” premieres a series of sculpture and installation pieces incorporating materials found in local waste streams.
Trask’s exhibition incorporates materials found in local waste streams.

CMCA Executive Director and Chief Curator Timothy Peterson said that the two artists “employ a remarkable mastery of novel artistic media,” and that the museum is excited to show the two in their first museum solo exhibitions, “offering dynamic opportunities at key moments in their respective careers.”

Ober said his intention with his show is to create a “playful and joyous place.” He added, “It’s about imagination, communal creaturehood, wildness, material 'purity,' resources, cuteness, animal ability, and more, I hope.”

When asked about the perspectives he brought from his time at Bowdoin, he said, a bit cheekily, “Now that I think about it, Bowdoin has some of the most thick and healthy squirrels I’ve ever seen!”

Trask said that while he hopes his work leaves a lasting impression on the audience, he too creates it with playfulness in mind. “Oftentimes my work is playful, energetic, and boldly colorful because those qualities grab the eye and ignite the imagination,” he said in an email.

“I love it when something I’ve created fills someone with wonder and makes them happier in the process. And because my work at its roots is about the deeply troubling topics of human impact and environmental collapse, I’ve found it particularly important to prioritize evoking positive emotional responses. It sets a more appropriate tone, since any path out of our current predicament will almost certainly require a healthy dose of optimism.”

Trask added that his time at Bowdoin taught him to have a more holistic view of humanity’s place on Earth, and helped him to understand that humans are intrinsically part of the natural world, not above or beyond it. “Our actions and our impacts are just as much an expression of the natural forces of the cosmos as the Big Bang, evolution, and viral epidemics,” he said. “We are nature. And if we want to survive on this planet, it’s absolutely crucial that we embrace the underlying threads that connect us to the world.”

Ober, who majored in anthropology and minored in visual artsis a sculptor and animator based in Maine whose work has been shown at the Portland Museum of Art, Cove Street Arts, Elizabeth Moss Galleries, and New System Exhibitions. He received the 2021 Maine Arts Commission Project Grant and his work was featured in CMCA’s 2020 Biennial.

Trask, a biology major with a history minor, works with found objects and is based in Topsham and Brunswick. His work has been shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Wassaic Project (New York), Cove Street Arts, Waterville Creates, and the Danforth Gallery at University of Maine. He also self-published his first artist book Strange Histories: A Bizarre Collaboration and his writing has been featured in the New York Times, Hyperallergic, Portland Press Herald, Brooklyn Magazine, and Christian Century.