Visiting Artist Rebecca Goodale’s Ant Farm Comes to St. Mark’s

By Olivia Hammond ‘19


This past month, everyone who has walked through the PFAC has seen the exhibition called Ant Farm. It was constructed collaboratively by several female artists who live and work in Maine. Meant to be an immersive experience, the artwork surrounds viewers and encapsulates them in a world of ants. A wide range of artistic media have been used to show these insects, but they are not arranged in the way many artists choose to display their work. Instead, every part of the room is used. Massive scrolls are draped over suspended bars, and large interlocked prints seem to pulsate as they hang in the center of the gallery, framed quilts on the walls make viewers stop and consider what they see.

There is so much depth and beauty in the way this exhibition was created, but also in the content itself. Ants are a powerful metaphor because they are small and often overlooked, yet extremely complex in many ways that we do not even understand. How can they compare to the human species, and how can they compare to our own lives? With a mixture of painting, printmaking, bookmaking, and architecture, the artists have combined their own visions to create one cohesive artifact. It brings up concepts of identity, culture, and nature that must be interpreted by visitors to the gallery.

Rebecca Goodale is one of the principal artists involved in this work. She lives and works at the University of Southern Maine, acting as the program coordinator for the Center of Book Arts. She also teaches and is the recipient of several awards, grants, and fellowship programs at elite colleges and beyond. She is extremely interested in ecology and wildlife, especially regarding the endangerment of plants and animals. In her own words, “Her intention is not to become a scientific illustrator; instead, Goodale wants to inspire sensitivity for these rare florae and fauna by using her background in book arts and textile design to interpret color, pattern, rhythm, and transition.”

On October 5th, the Advanced Art History and Advanced Studio classes had an “in-house field trip.” About twenty students had the privilege of attending a workshop taught by Ms. Goodale from 8:30 to 4:00. They constructed, both collaboratively and individually, three books ( you can see them on display in Taft over the weekend). She directed the class on their books and also displayed a number of examples from classes that she had taught in the past. Learning the complicated processes of book making, even those that were supposedly simple, gave the students a new perspective on how much care goes into a massive exhibit like Ant Farm.

The exhibit is on display through the end of the month- don’t miss it!