Q&A with Megan and Sal

Our current exhibition Momentary Certainties features work by Megan Magill and Sal Taylor Kydd, who are both recent graduates of the MFA program at Maine Media Workshops (in Rockport, Maine). PhoPa is closely affiliated with Maine Media and we love showcasing work by Maine Media's students, faculty and alums.  We've found that most gallery visitors know of the week-long workshops Maine Media offers but are less familiar with the longterm programs, so we wanted to take a closer look at the MFA program, and hear directly from Megan and Sal about their experiences. 

The MFA program is a low-residency program geared toward artists interested in engaging in a rigorous educational experience in the media arts fields of photography, filmmaking, and multimedia.  The MFA program typically take three years to complete and is based on a strong system of mentorships, biannual retreats, and intensives. See here for more specifics.  

Q&A with Sal Taylor Kydd:

1) What made you choose Maine Media's MFA program over a more traditional MFA program?

I chose the MFA program at Maine Media largely because I was so impressed with the faculty and teachers. I had gotten to know some of the faculty through workshops and in talking with them about the program I was struck by their intuitive understanding of what I was trying to convey with my work. I was looking for a low-residency program rather than a more traditional program as I needed something that would be flexible with my schedule, I found the description of the mentoring program within the MFA very appealing.

2) What stood out to you about the program?

One of the best things for me about this program is that although my focus is photography, I was able to explore a variety of media that I hadn’t even considered before. Working with my writing and developing my skills in book arts has really deepened my work and provided me with additional avenues for expression that has only enhanced my photography.

3) What was your favorite class to take at Maine Media?

The alternative process workshop with Brenton Hamilton was a turning point for me during the program. I had been looking to improve my printing and Brenton’s class really allowed me to jump off in a whole new direction that I hadn’t anticipated at all.

4) What do you think you'll be doing next?

I’ll be continuing to make new work as always, but I also want to focus on creating a limited edition artist book for a selection of poems and photographs that I self-published last year entitled Just When I Thought I Had You.

Q&A with Megan Magill:

1) How did Maine Media help shape your work?

My advisor and mentors at Maine Media helped me to define and understand what I was trying to say in my work. They inspired me to reach farther and to take risks. They helped to broaden my understanding of the work of other artists and in general made ART a central facet of my life.

2) What role did photography play in your life before you decided to pursue an MFA?

I took a photography class at my local art center about 2 years before I applied to the program. Although my process has expanded to include printmaking, and no doubt will expand again, photography is at the heart of what I do.

3) What do you think you'll be doing next?

I recently had the opportunity to show my work twice in Chicago (winning first prize for Representational work in one) and was selected as a semi-finalist in the Print Center in Philadelphia’s International Competition among a group of artists that I really look up to. I am hoping to use these accomplishments to get my work out there even more and have applied for shows in two venues near me in Chicago (where I live ½ of the time). I would also like to try my hand at teaching.

4) Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about your experience in the Maine Media MFA Program?

I guarantee you will make great friends. This was not a goal of mine, but very happy that it turned out this way. As an artist it’s very hard to operate in a vacuum, and getting your work out there can sometimes seem very competitive. Having friends who take the time to try and understand what you are trying to say and give you their support is, in my opinion, VERY important.

Find out more about the MFA Program at the Open House event Saturday, March 18th, 2-4pm!

Momentary Certainties will be on view at PhoPa Gallery, March 8th - April 8th.  Hear more from the artists at their talk on April 6, 5:30pm.

Daniel Anselmi: process & dialogue

Daniel Anselmi regards his works on paper and canvas as "an ongoing dialogue between painting and collage." His materials are sourced from discarded paper - including blueprints, ledgers, chart papers and canvas that "offer an aesthetic conversation" with his work. But how does one initiate such a delicate dialogue? Below are two sets of images showing a glimpse at the process in creating "Sir Lancelot" and "King Arthur," both currently on exhibition here at PhoPa.

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Last Week of "Natural Findings"

Natural Findings by Cheryl St. Onge is on its last week stretch. As part of the truly spectacular series of work on display at PhoPa this fall, beautifully composed shots of children with captive feral creatures have only a few more days until the dreamy works of Ni Rong take their place on the walls. 

The run of Natural Findings included an artist talk both entertaining and insightful. The photographs are carefully constructed, and part of the fun of the artist talk was discovering the short stories behind each composition. Journals adorning a wall of the gallery are a fascinating part of the show and were featured strongly in the artist talk. St. Onge described them as “conversations” between herself and others, a record of the internal monologue that drives us to art making. The journals have a beautiful reflection in the artists’ own honesty; her opened and candid answers contributed greatly to the talk and to an understanding of her process. 


Interestingly, St. Onge seemed to find her journals as a somewhat outdated way of displaying a conversation about her art; by using Instagram St. Onge can now easily receive feedback outside of her immediate community. She talked about the benefits of instantaneous feedback to her work; the “beautiful things that come back to you,” with the expanded audience of the digital world. The room discussed Instagram as a way for artists to record and share their processes, defying the importance of the finished work. The talk also touched on the ability to form projects through a smartphone’s lens; works that look good on the wall are often less than compelling on a two-inch screen, and vice versa.

Most artists are looking for approval from their audience, though the audience is at the artist’s discretion and can be as wide-ranging or limited as they choose. The gallery audience agreed that many of us knew what would get a post “liked,” and were more likely to post such things. The extent to which this bleeds into art projects is uncertain, but it is interesting that this is becoming a form of artistic dialogue. Criticism comes in the form of withholding a double-tap or giving “hearts” to a post. The plethora of images on the platform requires constant supervision of a posts’ “success” to learn what is truly successful and what isn’t. Even then, will be be successful outside of the Instaworld?

Many artists eschew social media, others utilize it frequently. Generally considered a way to help your average smartphone owner develop that secret sliver of artist, maybe Instagram is forcing artists to confront their inner average smartphone owner, swayed by a collection of little red hearts.

Natural Findings is up through Saturday, 11/6 from 12-5. If you want to ruminate on communication between artists and their audience or simply see some beautiful photos, make sure to get over to PhoPa before it's too late!

Contributed by Nora Armstrong, PhoPa regular, art blogger and art enthusiast.

Meditation on "Barns and Back Roads"

Al Wachlin Jr. and Alan Vlach’s collections both feature derelict agricultural structures in northern Maine. The artists’ unique printing techniques (Wachlin’s silver gelatin prints and Vlach’s salted paper) add literal texture to the composition. While Wachlin’s vibrant color prints depict modern and abandoned potato barns, Vlach’s work incorporates evidence of life (a series of storefronts and abandoned agricultural structures) that are falling apart, beyond repair.

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Keeping up with The Millennials: An Update from our Sister Gallery in Rockport

Hey there,

Brooke Morrill here. I'm an intern at Maine Media’s Rockport gallery for the summer.  Most of you will have heard about PhoPa’s sister gallery up here, but I wanted to give you an insider's view of what's on display now and why you should plan a trip up to see it.  To get a taste of what's in store, visit Maine Media's website: www.mainemedia.edu/workshops/gallery-store

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Space Reimagined

Most of the time science is used as a way to explain an idea or occurrence, to understand how our actions may affect the world around us, to provide answers to the question ‘why?’

Jay Gould’s Hubble Top 100 Downloads series (part of our current exhibition "Space, Place and Time") uses art to further our scientific inquiry, specifically surrounding space.

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Circling the Globe

Contrary to what seems like a widely-held belief, interstate 95 doesn't just end in Portland. If you've ever felt artistically adventurous you may have trekked up to see Lewiston's Art Festival, or continued to Waterville to see Colby's Art Museum and Common Street Arts just down the road. There are plenty of reasons to look north for an art fix, and PhoPa's next gallery exhibit is here to prove it. Ripple Effect, a show combining the work of three artists belonging to a Gardiner print collective, opens tomorrow afternoon with a reception on Friday from 5-7. 

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How It's Done with Salt, Silver and Sun

Most of us know how to take a photo. We have the technology nestled in our pockets, ready to document any moment of our lives. What we may not know is how painstaking photography can be, especially when used as more than documentation. While often considered a medium apart from the “fine art” of painting and sculpture, photography has grown to encompass everything from preteens snapping selfies to serious artists working with dangerous chemicals. Salt, Silver and Sun contains examples of many processes that may seem mysterious to the casual visitor. 

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