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Downtown building receives artistic upgrade

HOULTON, Maine — One of Houlton’s downtown buildings received an artistic upgrade over the weekend thanks to a cultural collaborative between the town and a New York artist.

Called “CHATTERMARK,” by artist Shoshannah White, the project is a street-art initiative bringing imagery of the Arctic and melting glacial ice to the streets of Maine.

“This project injects images of a continually changing polar landscape into the rush of daily life, serving as a reminder of new landscapes resulting from human impact, and a connection/disconnection we have with the inhabited world,” White said.

“Images are printed at mural scale and adhered to public, exterior walls with an all-natural binder meant to disintegrate with time and weather. Each installation will point to a digital presence providing context, links and varying perspectives on environmental concerns,” she said.

The installation took place Saturday morning on the building known as the “H&R Block” in Market Square and took roughly five hours to complete.

“The imagery has taken a couple of years to develop,” White said. “The landscape and glacier photographs were mostly captured in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago within the Arctic Circle. The black-and-white abstract images were made in Alaska. They’re camera-less prints made directly from glacier ice. For each mural, an image from each of these two series are paired together.”

To simulate the erosion of the polar ice caps, the pieces of artwork will slowly wash off the canvas.

“The pieces deteriorate at varying speeds based on exposure to weather and UV light,” she explained. “Pieces have come down in weeks, months. One mural which was very protected was up over a year.”

White said she hopes people are impacted by her Chattermark project, which received funding from SPACE Gallery through The Kindling Fund, a re-granting program of the Andy Warhol Foundation.

“I’m hoping for a ripple effect of connections,” she said. “I’m hoping that people can come across an image of a glacier, unexpectedly, on their way to work or to a meeting and be gently reminded of the Arctic or the natural world.

“Most of us are pretty separated from nature. Most of us know that the ice-cap is melting and sea levels are rising, but it’s hardly top of mind. One of my hopes with this project has been to engage in conversation across disciplines and to explore how different people are dealing with concerns of the environment.”

Nancy Ketch, Houlton’s economic and community development director, informed councilors of the project during the Town Council meeting Monday evening.

“It is the only one in The County,” Ketch said.

Ketch added the artist has several other such pieces in the state, including in Portland, Rockland and Farmington. She encouraged people to take a look at them.

Staff Writer Jen Lynds contributed to this article.

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