First Friday in July at Boothbay Harbor

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The afternoon of the first Friday, July 1, was warm and sunny, a perfect day to stroll around Boothay Harbor and visit the art galleries on this self-guided tour!

Gleason Fine Art had many visitors. Some were there for the first Friday, others were there to meet artists Kevin Beers and Henry Isaacs and spend time reflecting on the work in their new shows, “Isle Views” and “New England and New York”, respectively. The ‘island’ of the Beers show is Monhegan, an island that has inspired artists for hundreds of years. Beers’ plein-air paintings highlight the raw, natural beauty of the island as well as places and locations dear to Monhegan’s year-round residents and summer visitors.

Ask Beers why he loves Monhegan Island and he replies without hesitation: “First of all, it’s the light. When the light rises above the hill at the top of Monhegan and hits Manana first and then comes down again, everything is a bright orange color. As the day progresses, it becomes more modulated in green and purple shadows on the rocks of Manana. And the sunsets are fantastic. The next morning, everyone in town is talking about it like it was the football game last night.

“It’s the diversity of subject matter: the cliffs at Black Head and White Head, the lighthouse that I love…you walk down the winding road lined with trees and then it’s like the trees are like a curtain that opened over it. Monhegan hasn’t changed at all. You’ll be looking at something today that looks exactly as it did when Rockwell Kent or George Bellows painted it 100 years ago,” Beers said.

For example, in 1995, Beers was painting on the lawn of Monhegan’s Red House which overlooks Manana at sunset. “The island was a purple silhouette with only two bursts of light streaming down the hill…” The next day Beers attended a performance at Bowdoin College, “Allure of the Maine Coast: Robert Henri and His Circle” . And there he saw it – the exact scene as painted by Rockwell Kent a century before. “The same silhouette, the same shaped bursts of light that were still fresh in my mind – every little break in that light…the same ones I had painted,” he said.

Powerful and profound experiences like this are shared by all artists who visit Monhegan, an island that no one can stay away from for very long.

Around 6 p.m., most of us went to the gallery gazebo where Isaacs met A&E curator/writer Bob Keyes for a Q&A. Isaccs was asked about his new paintings, why he brought people back there, how and where he spent the pandemic, and a host of other topics. You could feel the connection between the two; Keyes has written about the art of Henry Isaacs for decades. We are lucky.

Everyone at Studio 53 Fine Art was celebrating the opening of the solo exhibitions of David Dupree and Jaap Helder. Dupree has the coolest brush strokes, well, they really look more like dots. The former philosophy student began painting seriously in 1973. His exhibition continues this month and I intend to report on his art, which is colorful, detailed and distinctive. He was there with his wife Gerda Andersen from North Waterford. I look forward to speaking with both of them for the play.

Studio 53 always draws crowds and this first Friday was no exception! Between three floors of distinctive art created by artists: owners Heidi Seidelhuber and Terry Seaman; Bob McKay, Dupree, Jaap Eduard Helder, David Estey, Don Josephson, John Silverio, Nancy Wilkoff, Ida Schmolowitz, H. Lane Smith and Tony van Hasselt, maestro Aaron Robinson on piano and/or harpsichord, and friendly bartender George Bishop, it’s a good time!

Ed and Susan Brown from the Wharfside Gallery next to the Red Cup Coffeehouse were participating this month. Ed had just finished framing his new paintings from the miniature sailboat series. Several people walked around and started talking about the scenery around them.

I walked over to Gold/Smith to see what was going on. Karen Swartsberg was talking with visitors, so I checked out the miniature paintings in pendants and earrings that face you as you enter. The gallery started in 1974! Susan Headly van Campen’s watercolors demand your attention. And the traditional sunflowers outside this gallery are babies of the height they will reach later this summer.

The Boothbay Region Art Foundation (BRAF) has a lot going on: the new nature-themed members exhibit downstairs and two solo exhibits upstairs. In the Harbor One room you will find the memorial show, “Carol Jessen’s Watercolor World”. In 1982, while Jessen was living in St. Louis, she came to East Boothbay to attend a watercolor workshop led by the late Judy Wagner. And she came here every summer after. Jessen’s blog, of the same name as this personal exhibition, is still online. The other solo exhibition upstairs, “All About Maine,” in the Harbor View room, features photographs by Diane L. Woodworth of Hermon and Augusta.

The members’ show is full of imaginative scenes and humans, animals, and vegetation. Some cool mixed media from new members Marylou Ashooh Lazos and Wendy Clayton shouldn’t be missed! And there’s a wall with some of the 12″ x 12″ paintings for sale that are by local and regional artists. If the size sounds familiar, they come from the annual Art in the Square exhibition which runs from late November to mid-January.

The other galleries participating in First Friday were Ae Home and Joy to the Wind Gallery. I will catch them next month!

Each gallery’s art invites your imagination to travel to places you’ve never been before. The artists are almost always there and like to chat about their work.

There are still three First Friday Art Tours to come: August 5, September 2, and October 7. The Boothbay Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce prints a map showing where participating galleries are located. Find the map outside Coastal Maine Popcorn on Townsend Avenue.

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