Farnsworth to Honor Artist Ashley Bryan with 2022 Maine in America Award

  • ROCKLAND, Maine
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  • September 02, 2021

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Artist Ashley Bryan. Photo by Sarah Beard Buckley

(Rockland, ME)  The Farnsworth Art Museum is pleased to announce artist Ashley Bryan as the winner of the 2022 Maine in America Award. A painter, printmaker, illustrator, author, puppet maker, and storyteller, Bryan came to Maine in 1946 to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The artist visited Little Cranberry Island that summer, and has lived on the island ever since retiring from Dartmouth College in 1988. The Maine in America Award is given each year to an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.

“The Farnsworth Art Museum is thrilled to recognize Ashley Bryan with the 2022 Maine in America Award," commented Farnsworth Director Christopher J. Brownawell. “Bryan is an immensely talented artist, author, and storyteller who has contributed so much to American art and Maine's artistic heritage. He is a cultural treasure.”

Born in Harlem, New York City in 1923, Ashley was raised in the Bronx. At seventeen, he entered the tuition-free Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, having been denied entry elsewhere because of his race. Drafted out of art school into the US army at age nineteen, he was assigned to serve in a segregated unit as a member of the 502nd Port Battalion, landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Ashley continued drawing throughout World War II, oftentimes stowing his art supplies in his gas mask. After the war, he completed his Cooper Union degree, studied philosophy and literature at Columbia University on the GI Bill, and then went to Europe on a Fulbright scholarship.

Upon returning to the United States, Bryan taught art at Queen's College, Philadelphia College of Art, Lafayette College, and Dartmouth College before retiring in 1988 and settling permanently to the community of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island, Maine.

“Ashley Bryan is among several nationally prominent artists who first found their way to Maine through a summer scholarship at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture,” explained Farnsworth Chief Curator Michael K. Komanecky. “He was among Skowhegan’s first class of students when the school opened its doors in 1946, and it was during his time at Skowhegan that he visited Acadia National Park and first saw the Cranberry Isles, the place that became his long-time home. Of his many contemporaries at Skowhegan who were also brought to Maine—David Driskell, Janet Fish, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly, and many others—Bryan stands out for the extraordinary range and diversity of his work. He is a painter, book illustrator, puppet maker, writer, and teacher, for whom music is also a much loved part of his life. We're honored that he has accepted our invitation to become a Maine in America Award winner, as an artist whose work has touched so many over the course of a remarkable career.”

Photo by Rose Russo

“I am so honored to be recognized as the Farnsworth 2022 Maine in America honoree as I enter my 98th year,” commented Bryan. “This recognition is more than a tribute to me; it is the tribute to all artists of Maine and especially those of color as it impacts on the role Maine plays in the art of America. 

It is my hope that through my art, all artists will see what is beautiful in themselves and explore something of art. Making art is one of the most adventurous experiences you can have—so always make art and create stories around ideas that you have.”

Among Ashley Bryan’s many awards are the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions award. The Farnsworth is planning a display of the artist’s work for the summer of 2022.

Named by the Boston Globe as one of the finest small museums in the country, the Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists. It is open year-round as the only museum dedicated solely to American and Maine-inspired art. Through its remarkable collection of more than 15,000 works, inventive exhibitions, wide-ranging intellectual resources, and energetic educational programming, visitors from around the world gain a deep appreciation of the ongoing story of Maine’s role in American art. More information about the museum may be found at www.farnsworthmuseum.org.

David Troup
Farnsworth Art Museum

Farnsworth Art Museum
16 Museum Street
Rockland, Maine
About Farnsworth Art Museum

Celebrating Maine’s Role in American Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists. With 20,000 square feet of gallery space and over 10,000 works in the collection, there is always something new on view at the Farnsworth. The museum houses the nation's second-largest collection of works by premier 20th-century sculptor Louise Nevelson. Its Wyeth Center exclusively features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. The Farnsworth's library is also housed in its Rockland, ME, campus. Two historic buildings, the Farnsworth Homestead and the Olson House, complete the museum complex.

Tags: american art

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