Seeking art in Maine

Last week I spent several days traveling the coast of Maine with my friend, Betsey. Our destination was Bar Harbor where we visited with friends. Along the way we stopped to investigate art museums and galleries. Our first stop was Portland where we stayed in the heart of the old part of town along the harbor, a charming area full of restaurants, shops, and galleries with narrow brick and cobblestone streets.

We stayed in this lovely old hotel.

We were assigned to Room 335. This is the sign that faced the elevator when we arrived on the third floor. This is one of several dilemmas we encountered with much laughter along the way.

This is the a view of the harbor near our hotel.

Portland has a number of very nice galleries and we visited four of them: The Casco Bay Artisans, Greenhut Galleries, the Portland Art Gallery and Cove Street Arts.

We enjoyed viewing a lot of realistic and expressionistic coastal landscapes along with a variety of other themes and styles.

We were intrigued by these large brushes and tubes of paint all made out of glass. (the brushes were 2 feet in length.)

I discovered that there are other artists using images of stones. It was interesting to see how they depicted them. Mine is on the right.

I apologize for not taking the time to record the artist’s names.

The Cove Street Gallery was in a huge space and displayed several exhibits. One was a show of prints by Peregrine Press, a group of printmakers with a shared studio in Portland. Some of the work pushed the traditional definition of prints, like the one that consisted of cut outs that were mounted around a corner of the gallery.

We then visited the Portland Museum of Art, a real gem of a museum featuring the work of artists, both contemporary and historic, who have lived and worked in Maine full or part-time. Here is a short list of notable artists who have found inspiration in Maine:
George Wesley Bellows – Frank Weston Benson – Frederic E. Church – Thomas Cole – Thomas Doughty – Richard Estes – Red Groom – Marsden Hartley  – Robert Henri  – Winslow Homer – Edward Hopper – Robert Indiana – Alex Katz  – Rockwell Kent = Fitz Henry Lane – John Marin – Louise Nevelson – Georgia O’Keefe – Fairfield Porter – Neil Welliver – Andrew Wyeth – Jamie Wyeth – N.C. Wyeth – Marguerite Zorach – William Zorach

Some of these artists were attracted to Maine as instructors or students at the Skowhegan School of Art, a nine-week summer residency program now in its 75th year.

In addition to an impressive permanent collection of art, we viewed two special exhibits. The first was an exhibit of very large photographs by Clifford Ross. The photos that I was most taken with were of waves where the exquisite tones and detail of the water along with the scale of the prints combined for a powerful impact. As I stood in front of the images I could almost hear the sound of crashing waves. They were beautiful.

Betsey breathing the salt air.

In dramatic contrast with the waves, we viewed a portfolio of screen prints by Richard Estes of urban scapes. In Estes’ Photorealism, he heightens the sensation of light in his paintings through contrast and highly polished surfaces. Nothing is out of focus – he collapses the space between background and foreground and reflections on windows with images behind the glass, which is something the eye does not do. (Looking at a reflection your eye focuses on the surface of the glass. To see what is behind the glass, your eye refocuses. So, you can see both by refocusing, but you cannot see both at the very same moment. It is the same when looking at something up close and then refocusing to view something in the background. But the lens of a camera can keep all in focus with a long depth of field.) By doing this, Estes creates patches of abstract patterns and hard edges in a super-clean environment void of humans. I appreciate how creative he is with his compositions.

We spent a night at this comfortable resort hotel in Rockland, Me. that overlooks the ocean.

We also visited galleries and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Me., known for exhibiting the work of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.

The museum had two exhibits focusing on the accomplishments of Maine women. One of them was devoted to Betsy Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s wife, who managed his career, catalogued his extensive output of work, promoted him and acted as his agent. Here are a couple of the paintings of Betsey done by Andrew.

Here is a painting by Jamie Wyeth demonstrating that he learned a lot from his father.

And here is a painting by N.C. Wyeth, Jamie’s grandfather.

Women of Vision honored the following women: photographer Berenice Abbott, businesswoman Linda Bean; painter Katherine Bradford; philanthropist Edith Dixon; photographer Cig Harvey; poet Edna St. Vincent Millay; sculptor Louise Nevelson; philanthropist Elizabeth Noyce; Molly Neptune Parker, basket maker and Passamaquoddy civic leader; Maurine Rothschild, women’s advocate and philanthropist; Phyllis Wyeth, champion of the arts and education; and artist Marguerite Zorach.

This is a hooked tapestry by Marguerite Zorach.

The Farnsworth also featured an exhibit of art by Robert Indiana done as a homage to the artist, Marsden Hartley. Hartley executed a series of paintings in Berlin in 1914-15 that refer to a friend, a soldier, who was killed in the war. These paintings are very early experiments with abstraction.

Indiana’s silkscreen series, titled Hartley Elegies, pays homage to Hartley. From the museum: The ten large-scale silkscreen prints of Indiana’s Hartley Elegies comprise a visual poem on the two artists’ shared interests in radical formal vocabularies, and their innovative combinations of words and numbers into their boldly colored geometric compositions.  They were also a coded commentary on their lives as gay men, as well as their experiences of living and working in Maine after leaving the artistic center of New York that earlier had nourished their careers.

This is one of Hartley’s paintings in his War Series, some titles of these works refer to German Officers.

Here are two of Indiana’s versions in his well known Pop Art style.

Rockland has quite a few galleries, but some of them were closed for the season. There were a couple of galleries still open that exhibited high quality art. One in particular, was the Stanhope and Spencer Gallery that displayed metal work by goldsmith, Henry van Wyck Spenser. This was the sign on his door.

In addition to the fabulous gold jewelry, the gallery also carried beautiful metal art containers by David Huang. Betsey now owns one of these gorgeous, unique objects.

Along the way, we were keeping an eye out for public art and encountered several murals.

This one in Portland contained bits of tiles, ceramics, and mirrors that sparkled in the sun.

Can you find the ceramic kitty?

These murals are in Rockland.

In downtown Rockland we saw an utility box covered with stickers. On close inspection, we discovered that the stickers were entrance stickers to the Farnsworth and Contemporary Art Museum. So we added ours!

As we traveled along, we had wonderful views of the Maine coastline, not yet quite “peak” foliage. Here are some views taken in Acadia National Park.

We took a little side trip to Port Clyde and we passed these cows eating pumpkins. Of course when I wanted to take a picture, they weren’t interested in eating. But I was patient and finally got my snap.

In Thomaston we stopped at the Maine State Prison Woodworking Shop, which is filled with all things wooden from furniture to gadgets to toys to jewelry. The shop has been on Rt. 1 for ages and has more than 10,000 people following it on Facebook!

In Bar Harbor we visited Willis Rock Store, another Maine institution.

We had some great meals, but lobster was not one of them! We passed by the famous Red’s Lobster Shack in Wiscassett, saw the long line (which is usually there) and passed on by.

Instead we had great ethnic meals: Lebanese, Thai and Indian. We recommend Olives in Portland for gyros and swarmas.

In Ellsworth, we enjoyed Massaman curries at Thai Sana where I met up with Mary Ann, a friend and travel companion who now lives in Maine.

We had to work for our Indian meal. The restaurant, Namaste, appeared on Google Maps as located on the same street as our hotel. We ordered by phone and went to pick it up. But, although we looked really hard, we did not see the restaurant or any signs for it. We drove to Rockland, then to Rockport, and backtracked, laughing as our stomachs grumbled, amazed that we could not find our dinner! As it turned out we travelled about 15 miles going back and forth to finally finding it .02 miles from our hotel, or 3 minutes walking. The reason we had such difficulties is that the restaurant was located off the road among motel units with NO SIGN.

We ravished our eggplant curry!

We had two outstanding breakfasts, each at a diner. In Portland, we ate at Becky’s along the waterfront.

In Darmriscotta, we dined at Moody’s famous Diner.

Cheese filled sausage, and biscuits with sausage gravy. Yummy!

It was a wonderful trip and we are looking for another destination. Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Seeking art in Maine

  1. chewygrapenuts

    Bravo!!!! Excellent as usual. Will you send me the pic of the cows eating the pumpkins. Thanks Xox

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply
  2. JWH Post author

    Consider visiting me and we can seek art along the Hudson River Valley – Mass MOCA, the Clark Museum, Storm King and Dia to start with! Coming back through Connecticut there are also Museums and galleries!

    Reply

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