Artist’s Lunar Capsule Project Tours Maine Ahead of Upcoming Bowdoin Exhibition  

By Tom Porter

As the eclipse plunged the town of Houlton into unfamiliar, mid-afternoon darkness for several minutes earlier this week, another lunar themed event also came to the northern Maine community.

deville artist
Abigail DeVille

Artist Abigail DeVille unveiled an interactive, moon-inspired sculpture on April 7. The exhibit, called Lunar Capsule, is on display until April 10 at the Houlton Higher Education Center. Next month it moves to Portland’s Indigo Arts Alliance and to Maine MILL in Lewiston.

As it travels through the state, Lunar Capsule will be gathering oral histories from interested participants—stories that will be woven into an audio installation as part of an upcoming wider exhibition of recent works by DeVille, who last year was the harrisburg and Rosenfeld Artist-in-Residence at Bowdoin College.

Lunar Capsule harkens back to the first manned lunar landing in July 1969 but also invites dreams of the future. Visitors are welcome to view the sculpture and sit inside it to record their stories about life in Maine, including their eclipse experience. The project also represents an exciting opportunity to reflect upon the relationship of human beings to the cosmos and to our own communities here on earth. Community members of all ages are invited to participate.

The upcoming exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Abigail DeVille: In the Fullness of Time, will feature approximately thirty works, continuing DeVille’s practice of using found materials and detritus to create works of art that bring forward the often forgotten—and sometimes erased—narratives of marginalized individuals, uniquely reflecting these stories. In the Fullness of Time opens at the Museum of Art on June 29, 2024, and will run through November 10. Central to DeVille’s work is the process of gathering both the physical objects that she uses to make her work and the oral histories—such as the ones being collected by the Lunar Capsule project—that connect her art to these communities.

“Human beings are time capsules of all of human history. Our genome contains the coding of the last 500 years of ancestry imprinted upon us,” explained DeVille. “We silently traverse centuries in our daily perceptions of self. Are there ways we can travel through immediate and recent events with the inherited knowledge contained within us? What are the unanswerable questions of our existence, and what binds us together inextricably? In the Fullness of Time seeks to collect, examine, and disseminate the ruminations and stories that tie together a local region with diverse perspectives. The same elements of stardust, the universe's building blocks, are in our bodies. We are little lights, dimmed, concealed, flickering, and shining brightly through the darkness of everyday living.” While DeVille’s work is rooted in specific places, the stories her work captures are transcendent in nature.

lunar capsule 'interactive sculpture'
Abigail DeVille's Lunar Capsule, here on display at the Houlton Higher Education Center, will form part of an exhibition of her work at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art opening in June, called In the Fullness of Time 

“Abigail DeVille’s methodology of bringing together artifact and oral history is a powerful approach to highlighting and sharing alternative and lesser-known narratives,” said Anne Collins Goodyear, codirector of the Museum of Art. “Because she has actively engaged with the communities whose stories she presents and history she explores, her work invites a similar level of engagement from viewers. The overarching connectedness between people, their communities, and the lands they inhabit comes through clearly, an experience we think will be inspiring for audiences in Maine.”

Added codirector Frank Goodyear, “Abigail DeVille was a wonderful artist to have in residence at the College, bringing an array of new ideas and perspectives on art-making to our campus. In the Fullness of Time provides an exciting opportunity for us to present contemporary art and at the same time present an exploration of the diverse communities of Maine, challenging and changing visitors’ expectations.”

The show includes selections from DeVille’s Libertas series, named in honor of the Roman goddess who personifies freedom. Interrogating both historic and contemporary icons of liberty, this group of eight works explores how a society premised on personal freedom supports its most vulnerable members and asks what emblems of the ideal of liberty resonate most strongly today. Other pieces, such as Columbia and Halve Maen, look at the relationship between memory and naming and casts our attention on how history is quite literally inscribed or erased from historical records.

As well as building on her work as an artist in residence at Bowdoin, the exhibition is a continuation of DeVille’s show Bronx Heavens (2022–2023), organized by the Bronx Museum and curated by the museum’s director of curatorial programs, Eileen Jeng Lynch.

“Human beings are time capsules of all of human history. Our genome contains the coding of the last 500 years of ancestry imprinted upon us.” Abgail DeVille.