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Good Morning Midnight | Sam Finkelstein & Duncan Hewitt

January 27 - May 5

Sam Finkelstein, Threes, 2023 foraged Adirondack granite 7.25 x 6.25 x 8”

Sam Finkelstein and Duncan Hewitt

Curated by Hilary Irons

January 27, 2024 – May 6, 2024

Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important.

—Viktor Shklovsky, Art as Technique, 1917

To reconcile ourselves with the objects and narratives we encounter in the course of a lifetime—to truly recognize them with creativity and intention—we must consciously slow and complicate our habits of thought around those objects and narratives, in the Russian Formalist theorist Viktor Shklovsky’s formulation. This complication is what he calls estrangement, or defamiliarization. Without this shift, we fall into perceptual habits, and lose the opportunity to encounter life in a state of creative wakefulness. “Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war,” Shklovsky says. Jettisoning habitual beliefs adds depth to what we already know in the world; art is generated by the forced shift away from the known and accepted. And by instituting this distance, we reinvest the things and moments of daily life with deep emotion, strange and
new. In the sculptural work of Sam Finkelstein and Duncan Hewitt, our experience of recognition is slowed, roughened, and made new again in this precise manner.

With restless intensity, Finkelstein and Hewitt’s sculptures grapple with the fraternal twins of stone and wood; the shapes to which they give form are reflected in the smokey mirror of defamiliarized objects. Ice skates, so realistic that the old leather ones can be distinguished from the new plastic models, are set in place but seem to move of their own volition across small opaque blocks of ice in a wood sculpture of Hewitt’s. A stone sphere made from a single piece of Rockland limestone, a deep smooth recess in a rough block of the same material, and a set of small wall-mounted granite rectangles suggest a staring eye, a deep vortex, and tiny landscape paintings, using the natural patterning of the stone itself to drive these images in Finkelstein’s work. Perception is slowed down, as our wish to see clear images competes with what the materials of stone and wood are telling us.

The artists’ work flickers in and out of representation—first it reminds us of something close to our hearts, then it reminds us only of the material with which it was made. The gulf between those moments becomes the subject. Skirting the borderlands between mimetic representation and non-objective abstraction, the work accumulates density and interior darkness like dying stars in orbit. Filled with both the warm immediacy of recognition and the cool detachment of the monument, the gravity of their work pulls the moment of perception into near-stillness, distorted like the anamorphic skull in Holbein’s The Ambassadors.

Looking at the instant of the evening’s rejection of daylight (or of life’s transition into death), Emily Dickinson articulates the wrenching sensation that comes with a slowed-down manner of perceiving daily occurrences, in poem 425:

I can look—can’t I—

When the East is Red?

The Hills—have a way—then—

That puts the Heart—abroad—

In the work of Finkelstein and Hewitt, the heart is put abroad with precision and tenderness every time a new object is approached for reconsideration and estrangement by the artists. The stone becomes stony as it moves us into a new understanding of the object, tradition, or sensation to which it refers. The wood regains its talismanic wooden power as we encounter anew the things that we loved and forgot.

About the Artists:

Sam Finkelstein (they/them) (b. 1992, New York) lives and works in Rockland, ME. Sam bought their first hammer and chisel on the way up to visit a friend in Thomaston five years ago and has been in Maine collaborating with rocks ever since. Sam’s practice considers regenerative models for community, the power of ceremony, and interdisciplinary methods of looking / seeing. Sam’s budding interest in performance and public art is motivating new explorations in sculpting sound and circus. Sam studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Summer 2022), and has exhibited work at Andrew Reed Gallery (Miami, FL), Duplex (New York, NY), Interloc (Thomaston, ME), and Personal Space (Vallejo, CA) amongst other galleries and institutions.
Duncan Hewitt was born in New York City in 1949 and grew up on Long Island. Having graduated from Colby College (BA) and the University of Pennsylvania (MFA), he worked at a Maine boatyard and foundry before becoming a Professor of Art, now Emeritus, at the University of Southern Maine. His work has been shown with prominent twenty and twenty first century artists. In 2016, the Portland Museum of Art presented Duncan Hewitt: Turning Strange, a selection of Hewitt’s work from the previous twenty years. In addition to a dozen solo shows (four at the ICON gallery) he has completed five public art projects.

About the Curator:

Hilary Irons is a Maine-based painter and curator. She is gallery and exhibitions director at the University of New England and is represented by Dowling Walsh Gallery. She received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in ’08 and a BFA from Parsons School of Design in ’02, and she has attended residencies at the Albers Foundation, Skowhegan, MacDowell, the American Academy in Rome, the Pace House, Hewnoaks, the Canterbury Shaker Village, and the Surf Point Foundation. She has written for The Chart, Art New England, Maine Magazine, and other publications.
Header Image: Sam Finkelstein, Threes, 2023 foraged Adirondack granite, 7.25 x 6.25 x 8”


January 27
May 5
Event Category:


Guy D. Hughes Gallery
21 Winter Street
Rockland, 04841
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