By Meghan Richter
Surrounded by the tremendous, lush greenery of its forests, that alternated with the boundless coastal views as the salted breezes permeated through the windows of my car as I drove through the state of Maine, I found myself engulfed by the passion and inspiration of many of its artists. From realists to modernists, these artists flourish in a bountiful cultural scene, up and down the Maine seacoast.
With the newly opened Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) and Farnsworth Museum nearby, Main Street Rockland hosts a series of galleries, including Dowling Walsh and Carver Hill Gallery, where the local artists’ works provide a unique take on what it means to be an artist in Maine. One of 25 galleries in downtown Rockland, Landing Gallery, was filled with local seascapes and of colorful renderings of fields and forests.
In contrast, Asymmetrick Gallery, located next door, is a compilation of experimental works. The abstract, wave-like forms of Eric Leppanen’s “Composition with Jade & Violet” stood out in a gallery that owner Jared Cowan said would continue to display works along a similar style. Asymmetrick will feature a solo exhibition of Cristin Millet’s abstract sculptural works from August 16 through September 16.
Southward from Rockland is another town in which it seems that every downtown business is a gallery or saltwater taffy store. The traditional coastal architecture of Booth Bay is accentuated by the views just behind its galleries themselves. Studio 53 has a sculpture park in the back, displaying marble works in a grassy spot with a bench that is perfect for sitting and looking out at the bay.
Glistening in the window display of Gleason Fine Art is Jennifer and David Clancy’s “Kelp Forest with Fish.” Made of hand blown glass, the work mimics the elusive nature of underwater foliage. Light glistened off the top, but towards the bottom, the piece became more opaque. The intention behind the glass was to create a realistic rendering of the diffusion of light through water in the ocean.
I followed 95 South to one of Maine’s major cities, Portland, where the Portland Museum of Art is currently featuring a large display of New York Cities female modernists. The exhibition, which is on view through September 19, examines what influenced each woman to invent her own approach to modernism, from Georgia O’Keeffe, Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Florine Stettheimer and Helen Torr, some of whom were ignored in the art community, especially in comparison to their male counterparts.
The works of Florine Stettheimer are particularly striking. Her oil works are textured portraits of mostly women. “Self-Portrait with Palette (Painter and Faun),” circa 1915 was a whimsical expression of self, while “Jenny and Genevieve,” provided social commentary on the relationships between white and black women at the beginning of the 20th century.
Opening September 16,“Unbound: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.,” features the works of Rollins, who is originally from rural Maine, and the K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) artist collective of New York City, where Rollins made a name for himself on an international scale. Their works include sculpture as well as wall pieces and will be on view at the PMA until December 31.
Portland is also home to the campus for the Maine College of Art (MECA). At Able Baker Contemporary, a relatively new gallery in the area, I was met by an intern from MECA. Though currently between exhibitions, they still had striking images from “American Optimism.” The off-beat style of this artist run gallery was quite alluring, and I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.
Further south towards Kittery, another small vacation town, I made my way to Chase’s Garage Artist Studios & Gallery. Though technically in York Beach, this little studio has just opened a new exhibition, “Form, Figure & Function,” that continues through August 14. The five-artist show opened on July 23, and I was lucky enough to get a tour of their extensive studio behind the gallery earlier that day.
A 13-minute drive southwest of Chase’s Garage, in York, is the George Marshall Store Gallery, which is exhibiting several artists through August 18. One artist, Lincoln Perry, immortalized scenes from the waterfalls near Bartlett, New Hampshire, a legendary local hotspot during the summer months. Using gestural strokes, Perry’s works give a good idea of the energy that embodies the falls, from people to the natural world they come from. His paintings evoke Ovid’s story of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and are inspired by the natural beauty he experiences, and the topicality of the myth as well.
Overall, the creative spirit of Maine’s artists was contagious. It’s clear they not only get their inspirations from the natural beauty of the world around them, but from each other as well.