June 8 – July 8, 2022

Matt Barter: Cantown

Matt Barter at his studio in Brunswick, Maiine

Matt Barter is a storyteller, who has taken it upon himself to recant the stories of the men and women who work Downeast—a cultural region along the coast of Maine that begins in Ellsworth, and stretches east all the way to the Maritime Provinces.

Downeasters are a hearty lot known for their ingenuity and conservatism. “These are among the toughest, most frugal, people I have ever met,” says Barter, “and the quietest.” He attributes their modesty to Puritan roots and the old English idiom “mind your p’s and q’s.” Downeasters keep to themselves.

To tell the story of Maine’s bygone sardine cannery industry, Barter created an imaginary town and company store inspired by Stinson Seafood, a sardine cannery in Prospect Harbor, Maine, that closed in 2010. Canneries thrived in Maine for over a century, and nearly every town along the coast had at least one small sardine factory. Some had more than a dozen. Stinson’s was the last cannery in the United States to close.

Barter calls his imaginary place Cantown. He has since created an installation based on this concept of paintings, wood reliefs, and folklike three-dimensional sculptures that pay tribute to the people who worked in the Maine canneries, many of whom were women.

Barter’s sculpture The Cannery Line shows three women working on an assembly line, snipping the heads and tails from fish riding along a moveable conveyor belt before they fall into a pail. An overhead counting system keeps track of how many fish are processed. Cannery Girl shows a single figure of a woman in an apron bent over while working. Other sculptures include the Cantown Punch Clock, a mustard hopper, a fisherman dipping bait, men with lobster traps, and lobstermen repairing a lobster boat.

Exhibition Catalog 2022
Matt Barter: Cantown
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