It may seem like a contradiction, but James Stephen Zoller’s still-life paintings have nothing to do with reality—at least not in the sense that he begins by setting up pleasing arrangements of objects, surfaces and backgrounds and then interprets what he sees on his canvas.

“My paintings are from my imagination, they always have been,” the Rackliff Island artist says, acknowledging that he doesn’t have any rules. “I don’t set up still lifes, I don’t do plein air. But that’s the fun of it, that’s the joy of it. I get an image in my mind and say, ‘I want to create that painting.’ I sit down, start it and most of the time it never matches the image in my mind but takes on a life of its own.”

Zoller has been painting for more than 20 years, beginning when he lived in Houston, Texas. “I’m self taught,” he says without apology. “I’ve stayed away from art classes or painting classes. I grew up in San Antonio and was heavily influenced by Mexican culture. Those are the colors I just devoured. But there’s a big difference in my artwork since being in Maine—the difference in light, the difference in surroundings. The quality of light here is an inspiration.”

He is using a new palette in the paintings he is showing in Martinsville’s Hedgerow Gallery this season, Zoller points out. “These are bright colors, happy colors—new colors I am loving.” And pears—“Pears are how I taught myself to draw and paint,” he says—continue to be a frequent touchstone image. Fabric backgrounds and wallpapers offer lively texture and pattern.

Zoller began exhibiting his work publicly in 2003 at galleries in San Antonio, Kerrville and Houston, Texas. In Maine, in addition to Hedgerow Gallery, his work has been exhibited and sold at Small Wonder Gallery in Camden, Archipelago in Rockland, Ingram Fine Art in Wiscasset and Port Clyde Art Gallery in Port Clyde.

Zoller’s Hedgerow Gallery show runs from Aug. 13 through 22. An artist’s garden reception will be held at the gallery on Sunday, Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. COVID-19 protocols will be observed. Please note: Hedgerow Gallery is closed Monday, Aug. 17, and Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Hedgerow Gallery is located at 8 Ridge Road (at the corner of Route 131 and Ridge Road) in the Martinsville section of the St. George peninsula, between Tenants Harbor and Port Clyde. For more information on Zoller’s show go to; for more information on Zoller’s work go to