Spring Point, South Portland, Maine from the winter of 1991. I remember freezing my fingers off on this 8 x 10. It took an inordinate amount of time:
A Facebook friend posted the Church painting above, right, Coast Scene, Mount Desert – 1863 and I immediately dug into my archives and found an image of mine from a few years back from about the same vantage point. Naturally the tide, weather and stature of the artist differ but the connection is somewhat compelling.
Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture July, 1984. Fotomat and kMart in Skowhegan.
Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?
I was looking at some illustration articles on the web and came across a reference to the McCauley Conner Exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, which ended 1/11/15.
I met Mr. Conner in 1984 while attending the Skowhegan school. It was the big weekend when the board of governors show up, have a meeting and poke around in the students’ studios. I got the word from the late Susan Shatter, a member of the board, that Mr. Connor was interested in one of my paintings. Susan made introductions and helped me navigate the uncharted waters of selling a painting. Mr. & Mrs. Connor were exceptionally kind people.
As illustration plays a more significant role in my work, I get a charge out of knowing that a very early Pollien is in the collection of a man who “…helped to redefine American style and culture.”
Cleaning out my files, I came across this item. I cannot recall the date although it is clearly pre-2003.
Jessica Allen Hall
Director of Educational Programming
Center for Maine Contemporary Art
ARTIST’S VOICE, ISSUE #3
As you look back, was there a pivotal moment in your artistic career that brought you to where you are now?
That’s very hard to say. There have been a lot of them really. Studying at the University of Pennsylvania with Neil Welliver, et al. was certainly important for me. Attending Skowhegan brought me to Maine. As far as the direction of my work goes, quite a while back, I came across a Susan Sontag essay on the role of quiet in art. That really helped me crystallize a number of thoughts that I had been having about painting and the process of reduction and simplification. She was specifically addressing minimalism, but the ideas were somewhat germane to some things I had been thinking about.
How has moving to Bar Harbor influenced you?
I moved here because I was making frequent trips from South Portland, I was already interested in painting here. As far as the locale influencing me, it’s hard to know. In the winter particularly, the quiet and solitude that I get to enjoy is, I hope somehow translated through the painting process. That’s why I relocated here, tens of thousands of acres of public coastal land.
What is it about the landscape that interests you most?
Being in it.
Do you consider yourself a realist painter?
Sure, why not? My impulse as a painter is to pursue a kind of phenomenological naturalism. That is, I want the paintings to ring true as an experience, although certainly I am not slavishly trying to render a photographic representation of what I see. I am trying to talk about a specific situation in any given painting, so in that sense I would probably be OK with the realism label. That said, I don’t think I want to be recognized as a painter who is making some sort of statement about realism or even working from nature. The whole “plein aire painting” thing isn’t what I’m about, although I do in fact work almost exclusively from observation.
How do you feel about color? Your palette seems a bit on the dark end.
I’m coming out of a period in my work when the solidity of the masses seemed to be of primary importance. The work got a little dark as a result. Also I think that my work is perhaps a little less “happy” than the typical landscape painting.
Do you make preliminary sketches?
Not really. Sometimes a painting will take two or three or more attempts to get right, but I work directly, starting out with a tonal layer of raw umber and turpentine.
Your canvas is consistently small. Why?
Working outside presents a lot of challenges and those difficulties seem to grow exponentially with the size of the canvas. I am currently working on some bigger stuff. (It seems that I’m always saying that though…)
Are your Maine coast paintings a series?
No. It’s just ongoing work.
Do you see an end to this series?
Do you always paint what you see? What about changing light? Tides?
Well, there’s going to be a certain amount of editing and simplification, distillation. The light changes and I try to deal with it. Sometimes I go with it and change the painting and at other times this means quitting for the day and working on something else. I have a lot of different paintings going at one time, so I can pick the tide, weather, quality of the light according to what the day presents.
What would you say that you are really after with your painting?
I’m really trying to talk about on a fundamental level what it is like to walk around on this earth with two holes in your head that let in light. I want to talk about the experience of looking at the landscape in a way that rings true and with language that is simple, elegant and forceful.
What kind of art do you admire?
Right now I admire A.T. Bricher’s work greatly, also I’m warming up to some of F.J. Waugh’s work. I also enjoy minimalism but intellectually rather than as a complete aesthetic experience. I’ve always been a big fan of Vuillard, the late Homer seascapes and the early Hopper. I find Sargent’s landscape painting to be pretty spiffy. Boudin’s as well. If there’s a point of commonality among all those artists, I can’t say what that is precisely, but there does seem to be one other than the obvious one of subject matter.
This older painting showed up on artnet recently. It was painted around 1986 at Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth, ME. Amy and I were living in the Portland area at the time. Thomaston Place Auction Galleries: Sunday, August 28, 2011 Summer Fine Art & Antiques Auction
A foot of snow is coming down outside, promising good painting in the coming days. Meanwhile, a blast from the bygone student days. This painting was somewhat controversial when I produced it at Skowhegan in the summer of 1984. It was generally held up as an example of bad, reactionary, low-concept art. Guilty as charged, I guess.