Photographer Justin Levesque considers Maine's relationship to its subarctic neighbors - and the lines across the sea that link us.
If you’re cruising Congress Street in Portland during the first half of this month, you may wonder what that hulking 40-foot Eimskip shipping container is doing in the middle of Congress Square Park. Did the Icelandic cargo titan, which made Portland its American port of call in 2013, stash a giant box full of intercontinental loot in the middle of the arts district?
In a sense, it did. The giant steel box houses ICELANDx207: Container, a photography exhibit (with audio elements) by Portland photographer Justin Levesque, who spent nine days aboard an Icelandic container ship last September, traveling the shipping route between Portland and Reykjavik. The residency-at-sea — first proposed by Icelandophile Levesque — revived a dormant Eimskip tradition of allowing artists free passage in exchange for a piece of art (and has since spurred a formalized residency program that’s brought aboard a handful of Maine artists).
At the ICELANDx207: Container exhibit, formal portraits of the crew are paired with recordings Levesque made aboard the ship, telling their stories.
Levesque’s work is on view in conjunction with the Senior Arctic Officials Meeting of the Arctic Council, which welcomes diplomats from Iceland, Canada, Russia, the Scandinavian nations, and elsewhere to Portland from October 4 through 6. Like the exhibit itself, the intergovernmental forum on Arctic cooperation spotlights Maine’s positioning as an American gateway to the Arctic and subarctic — a role the state has increasingly laid claim to since Eimskip’s arrival on the Portland docks.
We caught up with Levesque to talk boats, Björk, and Maine’s nascent status as an Arctic player.