PORTLAND, Maine — At first, Portland artists Pigeon and Titi de Baccarat struggled with the wheat paste-slathered portraits of Mainers. They turned into sails in Monday’s unseasonably warm wind as they tried to post them on pillars outside Maine Historical Society on Congress Street.

So Pigeon, whose given name is Orson Horchler, improvised. He cut them in two, hanging the portraits in halves. That made it easier.

None of Horchler’s drawings depicted a flannel-wearing, white person from the typical bag of Maine stereotypes. Below each visage was one word in bold type: Mainer.

Last summer he hung his portraits — all of Mainers he personally knows — on a vacant storefront just up the street. This time, he was invited to hang his posters as part of the Maine Historical Society’s exhibit “400 Years of New Mainers,” which opens Friday.

[MORE: The stories of these 8 Mainers highlight the long history of immigration to the state]

“It’s a very charged word,” said Horchler, of the word Mainer.

He did a similar installation in Farmington and someone thanked him — but not for a reason you might expect.

“Because they now had a place to go target shooting with their family,” he said. “Another comment is, ‘Why don’t you represent images of people who work and pay taxes?’”

It frustrates him, he said, but his goal is to get people to react — to talk about the issues of race, class and belonging.

His medium is paper and wheat paste. It’s temporary by nature. He thinks that suits the subject just fine.

“I try and engage present issues, and I’m hoping the issues that I address will no longer be relevant in five years,” he said.

“400 Years of New Mainers” opens at 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, at the Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine. Pigeon’s portraits will be on display outside as long as the elements cooperate.

[MORE: When you see these faces, do you think ‘Mainer’?]


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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.