Skip to Top Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Husson University’s Gracie Theatre to Screen “Jon Imber’s Left Hand”



Published on: March 22, 2015

BANGOR, MAINE - “Jon Imber’s Left Hand,” a new documentary about an artist’s battle with ALS, will be screened at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre on March 24, 2015 at 7 pm.

The film tells the story of Jon Imber, a painter that taught art at Harvard for 27 years and who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the summer of 2012. Also known as “Lou Gehrig's Disease,” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. As the disease progresses, victims lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of this disease can become totally paralyzed. 

“The Gracie Theatre is honored to bring this deeply moving story to the Bangor area,” said Jeri Misler, managing director of Husson University’s Gracie Theatre. “We are also excited to have the director and co-producer joining us that evening to share their experiences and answer questions about the film and Mr. Imber’s remarkable life.”

Imber’s courageous and darkly humorous responses to his illness are chronicled over the course of the film. The documentary traces his adaptations, switching from painting with his right hand to his left, and then to both hands as his condition worsens. The adversity posed by ALS only makes Imber more determined to paint. In response to the disease he completes more than 100 portraits in a three-month span.

Much of the film takes place in Imber’s Somerville, Massachusetts studio. In one scene, he and his partner, painter Jill Hoy, analyze a self-portrait and talk about the terror to come. The painting becomes a metaphor of Imber’s psychological journey.

The way that Imber carries on against enormous odds is at the heart of this portrait. Especially moving is how members of his community rally to his aid, dropping by to give his atrophied hands a massage or to bring a dish, as he invites them to have their portrait painted. 

“Jon Imber’s Left Hand” is a testament to the life-giving force that is art and the ability of two people and their community to face an uncertain future with passion and resolve.

Imber had a strong connection to Maine. His wife, Jill Hoy, was a longtime Maine resident. In the early 90s, she and Imber were married on Deer Isle. The couple called Stonington, Maine home prior to their relocation to Somerville, Massachusetts. 

As an important Maine painter, this motion picture was a natural fit for the Maine Master Project – an award-winning video series sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. More information about this project can be found at MaineMasters.com

“Anyone interested in experiencing the intersection of art and life here in Maine should not miss this film,” said Kathi J. Smith, an assistant professor of studio arts at Husson University. “Imber’s story is one of humanity - an important value we try to instill in all our students, every day. I’m very excited about this project and look forward to sharing this enriching experience with our campus and members of the surrounding community.”

The film’s director, Richard Kane, and co-producer, Melody Lewis-Kane, will be on hand at the Gracie Theatre to introduce the documentary and participate in a Q&A session at the conclusion of the film. The screening is sponsored by the Bangor Arts Society. The presentation of this motion picture is open to the public and $5.00 donations are suggested. All donations will be used to help distribute the documentary to a wider audience.

The 62-minute film has been on the festival circuit for the past few months and in November 2014 received the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the Boston Jewish Film Festival. The film also won the Audience Award for Best Film at the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival on December 6, 2014 in Sag Harbor, NY.

In talking about the experience of making this film, Director Richard Kane said, “I was given the extraordinary privilege of witnessing two lovers grapple with squeezing the most out of each
moment of life. Jon Imber's example will be inspirational to anyone facing his or her own mortality. I am looking forward to screening the film in Bangor and am grateful to the Bangor Arts Society and Husson University for hosting this event."

In addition to film festival awards, the documentary has received critical praise. Daniel Kany of the Maine Sunday Telegram said, “A masterpiece of intimacy in the face of tragedy, Jon Imber’s Left Hand is an extraordinary accomplishment in film. It is the eulogizing of the creative force and artistic life of one of America’s leading painters – in his own vibrant voice.”

Jon Imber died on April 17, 2014. It is estimated that over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. 

The trailer for the motion picture can be seen on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/91172268 or on You Tube at http://youtu.be/TzU4Dg5tWaM. 

For more information about the screening, contact the box office at The Gracie at 941-7888 or visit GracieTheatre.com. 

Completed in October of 2009, The Gracie is Husson University's center for the fine and performing arts. This beautiful new 500-seat theatre is quickly earning a reputation as one of Maine’s premier performance venues. In addition, The Gracie also serves as a learning platform for students from the New England School of Communications in digital audio, sound mixing, set design and construction, lighting, acting and electronics. For more information, visit GracieTheatre.com

For more than 100 years, Husson University has prepared future leaders to handle the challenges of tomorrow through innovative undergraduate and graduate degrees. With a commitment to delivering affordable classroom, online and experiential learning opportunities, Husson University has come to represent superior value in higher education. Our Bangor campus and off-campus satellite education centers in Southern Maine, Wells and Northern Maine provide advanced knowledge in business; health and education; pharmacy studies, science and humanities; as well as communication. In addition, Husson University has a robust adult learning program. For more information about educational opportunities that can lead to personal and professional success, visit Husson.edu.

Back to All Articles