Art of the Coast: The contemporary scene

By John K. Hanson Jr. | Aug 06, 2011
Source: Linda M. Norton "Close Hauled, Port Tack (Timberwind)," watercolor.

Images of Maine and the lives lived here have inspired great art for hundreds of years. The tradition is alive and well today with art both representational and abstract.

Not only is Maine home to internationally acclaimed painters, photographers and other crafts folk, but art is the centerpiece of what some people call “the creative economy,” a movement that has helped to revive towns ranging from Rockland to Eastport, Lewiston-Auburn to Stonington.

Art schools include Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle (founded 61 years ago); the Skowhegan School for visual artists (established in 1946); Portland’s Maine College of Art (started in 1882 and revitalized in a renovated department store building in the 1990s), and Rockport’s Maine Media Worskshops (started in 1973 as the Maine Photographic Workshops and renamed and rejuvenated in recent years). Then there are countless artists’ colonies, including those on the island of Monhegan and in Ogunquit.

Nationally known contemporary artists whose work has been inspired by Maine include Alex Katz, who specializes in flat-toned, oversize canvases of people and places; Will Barnett, with his stylized panels; Jamie Wyeth, who, like his father and grandfather, has brought a deft touch to the Maine landscape and its inhabitants; Stephen Pace, Alan Bray, Rackstraw Downes, and Yvonne Jacquette; photographers Paul Caponigro, William Wegman, and Eliot Porter, and the list goes on.

The Penobscot Marine Museum is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding this summer with a juried art show that features work inspired by boats. “The Art of the Boat” show combines two of the state’s most unique industries: the artistic creative economy, and boat building.

Chosen by a panel that included Maine artist Eric Hopkins, art critic Carl Little, and yacht designer Robert Stephens, the show includes works by more than 50 contemporary artists. The works range from an intricately carved wooden panel of a boatbuilding scene by Gordon Bok, also known for his folk-singing prowess, to a watercolor by Leslie Seaver of work underway in J.O. Brown’s boat shop on the island of North Haven.

It also includes oil paintings by such artists as Nancy Barnes, Sam Cady, Bill Barton, and Rebecca Daugherty; photographs by Benjamin Mendlowitz, Tillman Crane, Alison Langley; half models, sculpture, drawings, and prints.

As Maine’s oldest maritime museum, Penobscot Marine Museum is home to outstanding collections of historic boats, photography, marine art and artifacts, ship models, and 19-Century furnishings and architecture. Penobscot Marine Museum is located at 40 E. Main St. (Rt. 1) in Searsport, between Camden, Bangor, and Bar Harbor. More information: penobscotmarinemuseum.org; 207-548-2529.

As Maine’s only in-the-water boat show and coastal lifestyle event, the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show annually features nearly 300 exhibitors of boats and marine gear, home wares and furniture, art and jewelry. This year’s show, to be held August 12-14, will also include exhibits about the coast circa 1936, as part of an annual exploration of how “Tradition Shapes Innovation.” In addition to historic images and films, a mix of vintage and modern products will trace the influences of the mid-thirties on the products of today, and the ways that creativity has moved the state and its craftspeople ever forward. It is produced by Rockland-based Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors magazine; maineboats.com, 594-8622.

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