Art and Maine’s immigrant communities

1:30 pm, Diamond 141

  • Traditional objects in new contexts: Oscar Mokeme, Museum of African Culture
  • Art, immigrant dislocation, and local adaptations: Wilder Davies ’17, Muheb Esmat ’17, Anna Fan ’15, and Chrisbel Ni ’18, Colby College
  • Art, immigrant history, and political engagement: Jo Israelson, Compagna-Sennett Artist-in-Residence at Colby College
  • Art, immigrant identities, and education: Elizabeth Jabar, Maine College of Art
  • moderator: Libby Bischof, University of Southern Maine Department of History and Political Science

Oscar MokemeOscar Mokeme is the founder and the Executive Director of the Museum of African Culture in Portland, Maine.  Mokeme comes from a long linage of healer practitioners “Umu-dibia.” He is a direct inheritor of this ancient healing wisdom with over 35 years experience as a healer practitioner.
He has spent most of his adult life collecting and interpreting the psychological containment embodied in African art.  Mokeme also holds a traditional priesthood title of “Ugo-Orji”; Ozo-Dimani of Aborji-Oba in his native country Nigeria.  He was awarded a Traditional Arts Masters: Traditional Healer by the Maine Arts Commission and received the Jefferson Award in 2001 for cultural diversity in Maine. His workshops and presentations blend traditions and have touched millions of people worldwide.

IntentionMuheb Esmat ’17, Anna Fan ’15, Chrisbel Ni ’18, and Beatrice Smith ’15 are among the Colby student curators of Somewhere Here: Visions from Chinese and Taiwanese Artists in Maine, on display at Common Street Arts in Waterville from Feb. 4 – Mar. 14, 2015, and accessible online at

Compass-9714Jo Israelson, Maine born and raised, is a nationally known sculptor and site specific installation artist who lives in a firehouse in Maryland in the winter and a boat house on Peaks Island in the summer. In her multimedia work she often uncovers a little known historical fact that resonates in issues of contemporary society. For the past two years she has conducted research on the role of the founding members of the Portland Council of Jewish Women (later the National Council) who provided assistance to immigrants detained at the House Island Quarantine and Immigration Station. Their efforts to welcome the stranger will form the basis of her exhibition slated to open September, 3, 2015 at the Maine Jewish Museum.

JabarElizabeth Jabar is a print based artist whose hybrid works on paper explore ideas of ethnicity and heritage.  Her printed assemblages and artists’ books display a highly personal visual language that incorporates cultural motifs from folk art, religious traditions and textiles. Her practice also encompasses collaborative endeavors and social practice projects with her students and colleagues, including her recent project Future Mothers, which launched at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Portland, Maine, in 2012. Elizabeth is Associate Professor of Printmaking and Foundation at Maine College of Art in Portland.

bischofLibby Bischof received her PhD in American History from Boston College in 2005, and is currently Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Southern Maine where she teaches nineteenth-century American History, the History of Maine, Photographing American History, and other courses in cultural and social history.  Her first book, Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland, 1900-1940, was published by Yale University Press in 2011 in conjunction with an exhibition she co-curated at the Portland Museum of Art. Her next book, Maine Photographs: A History, 1840-2015 (with Susan Danly and Earle Shettleworth) will be out this fall from DownEast Publishers and the Maine Historical Society.  She is assisting with a variety of exhibitions in conjunction with the 2015 Maine Photo Project, including curating the exhibition “Focusing on Home: Chansonetta Stanley Emmons’ Maine” at the UNE Biddeford Art Gallery, and co-curating “Maine: The Way Life Was?” at the USM Art Gallery.  Bischof lectures widely on Maine history and culture, enjoys making history public, and frequently works with local K-12 teachers.

[additional bios coming soon]

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