Monday, October 2, 2017

Maine: State of the Art

Painter John Walker at his Maine cottage on Seal Point. During the past several decades Walker’s surroundings at this remote camp have been the subject of his canvases acknowledged with national and international museum exhibitions and gallery shows. Walker and his wife artist Kayla Mohammadi designed the house that from this elevation reminded me of the geometric angularity found in his paintings. One of the standout abstract painters of the last fifty years – Boston Globe.
Maine: State of the Art
By Augustus Mayhew

On canvas Maine’s rocky coastlines and picturesque landscapes are most often expressed by representational paintings with postcard views of lighthouses, lobster boats,  fishermen, and blustery oceans. Homers and Wyeths have for the most part captured the Maine brand, that is, what share Stephen King paperbacks allow.  When I lived in Maine, I would trek down to Prouts Neck after a snow to observe what Winslow Homer might have experienced when he spent the winter months at his cliff side cottage studio.

Although I can recall it only when one could spend an hour chatting with Doris Homer in what was then a bleak setting. The Portland Museum of Art has accomplished a considerable restoration and now offers tours, describing it as “one of the most significant locations in the history of American art.” Doris, a onetime chicken farmer, was married to the artist’s nephew Charles Homer. Following her death, her estate sold the studio on more than one-half acre in 2014 to the Portland Museum for a reported $2.3 million.

During my recent jaunt I thought I would try to find a different perspective. Fortunately, John Walker’s work was at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) in Rockland. After seeing his show we met up with the English-born artist at his South Bristol studio and gallery. Then, lunch with him and his wife artist Kayla Mohammadi at Seal Point, the setting that has shaped his work. John and Kayla, who teaches painting at Boston University, were soon heading to Australia and Southeast Asia for the winter months. Also at CMCA, director Suzette McAvoy encouraged us to take a look at the work of Maine’s leading peintre noir, Linden Fredericks.
John Walker at Seal Point. Betty Parsons said to me - Its August, you can’t spend it in New York. Go to Maine. I’ve got just the place for you. That was over in Head Tide and began my fascination with Maine. Parsons gave Walker his first New York show in 1967. And I hadn’t even had a show in London yet. A half century later, Walker remains entranced with the  Mainescape  however distant from his West Midlands beginnings.
The following day we visited with him and his wife Heather at his Belfast studio before they were heading to New Zealand for several months. A few blocks from Linden’s studio, New York abstract expressionist  Harold Garde was at his Belfast studio before packing up for New Smyrna Beach for the winter. A few nights later 94-year-old Garde would be in Boston at the opening of his show Some Risks are Rewarded at Artlery 160 Gallery.

In Ellsworth, Carl Little, Maine’s prolific author of numerous books about Maine’s art and artists, introduced me to the Courthouse Gallery, a showcase for some of the state’s vanguard artists. Then, as I have always appreciated McKim Mead and White’s Walker Art Gallery (1894), one of Bowdoin College’s architectural jewels, I  stopped by to see Constructing Revolution – Soviet Propaganda Posters from between the World Wars. For the past several years, the gallery has been under the guidance of co-directors Anne and Frank Goodyear, formerly associated with the National Portrait Gallery at The Smithsonian, who have plans to move the show to The Wolfsonian-Miami Beach.

Tidal Wave: John Walker – From Seal Point 
June 24, 2017-October  29, 2017/Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA)
21 Winter Street – Rockland
Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
John Constable’s Tree, 2014. John Walker.
CMCA opened in June 2016 designed by New York-Maine architect Toshiko Mori. The museum’s three galleries feature more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space. The courtyard sculpture Digital Man is by Jonathan Borofsky.
Suzette McAvoy, CMCA executive director and chief curator.
CMCA’s 21st-century Main Gallery is a major departure for Maine where previously the nearby Farnsworth Museum upheld a more traditional staging for exhibitions.
The Farnsworth’s Maurine and Robert Rothschild Gallery represents Maine’s long-established showcase for the arts.
Main Gallery, CMCA. John Walker / From Seal Point. In 2015 Alexandre Gallery in New York presented John Walker: Looking Out to Sea that was the basis for the current show at CMCA.
Main Gallery, John Walker / From Seal Point. Not since John Marin burst upon the American art scene in the 1920s and 30s have paintings of Maine succeeded to a comparable degree in setting a new standard in pictorial innovation in the art world at large – Hilton Kramer, New York Observer-2004.
Main Gallery, John Walker / From Seal Point. Center for Maine Contemporary Art. This past spring and summer The Met-Breuer presented Marsden Hartley’s Maine. In July the Marsden Hartley show opened at the Colby College Museum of Art where it runs until November 12.
Main Gallery, John Walker / From Seal Point. Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
At the Studio
Grange Hall-South Bristol
John Walker’s second-floor studio is located in a former Grange Hall. My pictures always look best in the studio – John Walker, Portland Press-Herald, July 2017.
English landscape painter John Constable remains an influence on Walker’s painterly motifs.
However untidy and chaotic his studio, Walker’s paintings are powerful coherent images.
Works in progress, still in development.
John Walker with art advisor-appraiser David Miller.
Studio, looking toward the library along the far wall.
John Walker, 2017. Walker taught painting at Cooper Union and Yale before taking a longtime position at Boston University.
A painter’s tools.
At his studio and at his camp, Walker has a formidable collection of Oceanic and African art.
Studio photograph, Claude Monet painting water lilies.
At the Showhouse Gallery
South Bristol
Located near his studio at the Grange Hall, Walker restored an old farmhouse and transformed it into a gallery for recently completed works.
John Walker, 2017.
The view east from the gallery toward an inlet.
Whenever I am at The Prado I go first to the basement to see this magnificent painting The Descent from the Cross (Il Descendimiento) by van der Weyden – John Walker.
The Room at the Top of the Stairs.
At Seal Point
For me, Seal Point is what Mont Sainte-Victoire was for Cezanne. – John Walker.
High tide at Seal Point. Afar, Peabow Island.
The view from Seal Point on what may be considered a bright day.
Seal Point camp. The camp was what felt like a lengthy drive from the gallery though in Maine it might have only been one mile. After turning off onto a series of unmarked winding roads  that ran along the inlets and marshes, John suddenly stopped and got out of his truck. We thought something was wrong. “Did you see that moose?” he asked. Of course, my camera was packed in the back and we were too busy speculating about his tax bill with what seemed several miles of water frontage than to have spotted a moose. Drat! At the end of the drive, we came upon the Seal Point camp.
Walker’s paintings capture the murkiness and morass below at low tide.
Above the fireplace, a painting by one of Walker’s former students.
One of John and Kayla’s collections of African wood sculptures.
Collection of John Walker and Kayla Mohammadi.
Collection of John Walker and Kayla Mohammadi.
Kayla’s studio is in the garage building where John first began painting Seal Point. With a Finnish mother and an Iranian father, Kayla lived in California for many years before heading east. She and John have done several painting workshops in Maine.
Kayla’s paint tubes.
Work in progress. Kinetic, colorful, focused.
Seal Point camp, guest house.
John Walker at Seal Point.
Maine Noir: Linden Frederick -  Night Stories
Center for Maine Contemporary Art
21 Winter Street – Rockland
Linden Frederick -  Night Stories
Wall text
In New York, Linden Frederick shows at Forum Gallery.
50 Percent, 2016. Oil on linen. Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
Linden Frederick at his Studio in Belfast.
I have completed seven violins. Some of the wood dates to the early 1900s. – Linden Frederick. Hailing from a long line of carpenters, when he isn’t painting, Linden is making violins.
Linden’s violin workshop.
One of Linden’s early works hang in an upstairs hall of his home.
Memoir was an earlier show of Frederick’s paintings in New York.
My next series of paintings will be titled After Midnight – Linden Frederick.
Harold Garde in Maine
Coffee with nonagenarian Harold Garde in his Belfast kitchen. A Maine resident for the past thirty years, Harold Garde has been a notable apostle of Abstract Expressionism with a touch of Surrealism for the past five decades. I’ve always painted what I wanted, so I’ve been able to keep painting even for an audience of one.
Poster, Harold Garde at Rockland. Garde has been the subject of several documentary films, including part of the Maine Masters series.
Portrait of Harold Garde. Rob Shetterly, artist.
Portrait of Harold Garde’s first wife. Harold Garde, artist.
At Columbia for his MFA, Garde credits the influences of Ilya Bolotowsky, Leon Kelly and George McNeil.
The screen beneath the stairs.
Garde’s studio has works from each of his various periods.
Harold Garde.
Garde’s studio is an ensemble of several rooms on the houses upper floor.
The view from the studio window.
Smaller studies are stacked on shelves.
A four-panel figurative piece.
Courthouse Gallery Fine Art
6 Court Street- Ellsworth
Author Carl Little, right, with Courthouse Gallery owner Karin Wilkes. Founded in 2006, the gallery is house in two 1830s Greek Revival buildings in downtown Ellsworth. In 2012 Wilkes and her husband Marshall began publishing books documenting the life and work of Maine artists with several written by Carl Little.
Philip Barter: Forever Maine by Carl Little.
Blue Rocks, 1976. Gretna Campbell, artist.50” x 50”.  Magnificent painting.
A Still Life by John Heliker.
Courthouse Gallery.
William Irvine, artist.
William Irvine: A Painter’s Journey. Carl Little, author. Foreword by Richard Russo.
A work by William Irvine.
Jeffrey Becton: The Farthest House.
Phillip Barter’s On the Airline #3.
Courthouse Gallery, Ellsworth.
Walker Art Gallery
Bowdoin College - Brunswick
Built 1893-1894 in the Gilded Age’s Renaissance style designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White, the Walker Art Gallery houses one of the nation’s oldest college art collections.
Walker Art Gallery, rotunda.
The Walker’s new glass-and-bronze entrance pavilion houses an elevator and a double staircase.
Walker Art Gallery, entrance pavilion side elevation.
Walker Art  Gallery, entrance pavilion.
Walker Art Gallery, entrance pavilion double staircase.
Constructing Revolution: Soviet Propaganda Posters from between the World Wars. The exhibition is composed from the Collection of Svetlana and Eric Silverman.
Constructing Revolution: Soviet Propaganda Posters from between the World Wars.
Soviet Women: Bringing Revolution.
“I salute to the simple people …” — Joseph Stalin, 1945.
Constructing Revolution at the Walker Art Gallery.
An Assyrian relief housed in the gallery’s new glass curtain wall addition facing Maine Street.
Gallery co-directors Anne and Frank Goodyear in the Walker’s rotunda leading to the Bowdoin Gallery.
Bowdoin Gallery. Gilbert Stuart’s presidential portraits are part of the Walker’s collection of more than 14,000 art works.
Anne Goodyear points out the Bowdoin’s distinguished portrait collection at the same time pointing out the Barkley Hendricks exhibition in the adjacent Markell Gallery.
The notable work of Barkley Hendricks.
Barkley Hendricks – Let’s Make Some History.
The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe. June 24, 2017-November 25, 2017.
The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe.
The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe.
Walker Art Gallery, entrance pavilion floating steel staircases.
Walker Art Gallery, Bowdoin College.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur