Photographer Arthur Fink recalls with “Dancing in the Light”

ByDavid M. Conte

Oct 4, 2021

Arthur Fink, it seemed, was everywhere. At each opening, at each conference, he arrived early to get a good overview of the art or a good seat. A photographer himself, he was among the most loyal of Portland’s artistic audiences, always showing off and supporting others.

On Thursday, the Maine Jewish Museum opens an exhibition of Fink’s photographs, “Dancing in the Light,” giving the community the chance to support Fink’s art, memory and family. Fink, who lived on Peaks Island with his wife, Aaiyn, died in April at the age of 74, shortly after publicly announcing that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “Dancing in the Light” pays homage to Fink for his decades-long commitment to photographing the dancers associated with the Bates Dance Festival.

There is a public reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. A memorial for Fink will be held from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lions Club on Peaks Island.

Nanci Kahn, curator of photography at the museum and herself a dancer, and Bruce Brown, curator emeritus at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, co-hosted the exhibit. They spent many hours in Fink’s East End studio looking at photographs from a period of several years. “What Bruce and I tried to do was put together Arthur’s biggest hits,” said Kahn, who met Fink in the 1990s while dancing in Portland. “We have tried to choose photographs of astonishing beauty and grace and which show the work of the dance. And we also tried to show the emotion of the dance.

Bates College resident photographer Arthur Fink is editing his large collection of photographs which will be on display at the Bates Collage in June 2014. Gordon Chibroski / Personal Photographer

Kahn and Fink shared a love of dance and a love of photography. She was exchanging lessons at Casco Bay Movers in exchange for her photography when they met. At the time, Fink was just starting to do what became his annual trips to Bates each summer to photograph dancers, in rehearsal and in performance.

“He was at every rehearsal, because he found that was where the work is really done, where the dancers can be themselves,” Kahn said. “As a dancer and knowing Arthur’s long passion for it, I feel a real connection, both personally and professionally. It’s an honor to work on this show.

The photographs are hung on either side of the hallway on the museum’s first floor. Brown, who often accompanied Fink to the Lewiston Dance Festival and helped organize his annual college photography exhibit, described Fink’s photographs as “a wonderful artistic documentation of the Bates Dance Festival tradition.” He was a strong, strong photographer, able to take truly wonderful photos that captured the grace and athleticism of the dance.

A longtime friend, Brown called the new exhibit a “very special celebration for Arthur, for the museum, for the Bates Dance Festival and for the whole community.”

Aaiyn Foster, Fink’s widow, said the exhibit offered a “sacred closing opportunity.” She is browsing her late husband’s artwork, figuring out what to sell, what to keep, and how to shape her legacy. “Dancing in the Light” gives his friends the chance to remember him and others the chance to experience the passion and commitment he brought to his art, she said.

“I want people to be elated and inspired by Arthur’s brilliant photograph,” she said.

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