September – Staying close to home

September’s Baccalaureate

A combination is

Of Crickets — Crows — and Retrospects

And a dissembling Breeze

That hints without assuming —

An Innuendo sear

That makes the Heart put up its Fun

And turn Philosopher.

Emily Dickinson

The transition from summer to fall is, to me, one of the most poignant changes of season. Noticeable are the deafening sound of evening crickets, the departure of the birds that have been regular visitors to our feeders, and long, yellow afternoon shadows. The month of “September” rhymes with “remember” and it seems appropriate to be a time for remembrances.

I always enthusiastically looked forward to going back to school. I remember my sisters and I studying every page of the half-inch thick college issues of Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines. Our favorite section was called “Dos and Don’ts,” photographs of girls on the street wearing something very wrong, compared with a photograph of someone else being fashionable and doing it just right.  The editors printed black masks on the offending girls to obscure their identity and we were determined never to make similar fashion faux pas.

My school years and those of my grown children are long behind me, however I still find September a time when I want to start something new. Without the structure of a curriculum, it is harder to get started. We have been watching the U.S. Open Tennis tournament and I am reminded of this quote by tennis great, Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

This month I never found a definitive destination or direction to take, so the focus of this newsletter is to share some of my close-to-home ramblings. Early in the month, I visited artists Lincoln Perry, Michael Walek and Todd Bezold, and on a beautiful Saturday I went to Sanctuary Arts and the Green Foundry in Eliot for their open house. I also enjoyed visiting with Amy Clark at her Ocean Fire Pottery on Woodbridge Road in York.

Lincoln Perry – Painter, Sculptor and Writer

A visit with Lincoln Perry is always edifying. I began my recent visit with him in his third-floor studio at his York home. Leaning against the wall was a very large and dramatic painting called Decameron. (68″ x 96,” oil on canvas, 2018) Lincoln explained that this painting and others were inspired by his reading of the book of the same title by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book contains 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men who were quarantining in a villa outside of Florence to escape the Black Death that was ravaging the city. He found it an odd coincidence that just prior to the arrival of Covid he was painting images of the plague.

Lincoln often bases his series of paintings and sculpture on historical themes and mythology. Writer and publisher, Josh Bodwell, describes him as an artist “obsessed by learning from the past and translating it into something new.” Lincoln admitted that his personal experience with this past year and a half have made him want to find new challenges, learn new things and explore subject matter that he cares about.  

Lincoln’s attire in the sculpture studio, drawings from his sketchbook,and wax studies.

In the beginning… Lincoln’s most recent subject is the story of Adam and Eve and he has given himself the challenge of sculpting their story in marble. His process begins with numerous drawings, working from a live model, and doing preliminary sculptural sketches in wax. His studies explore endless combinations of the two figures including one where Adam is hoisting Eve to pick the apple. “Why should Eve get all the blame for getting tossed out,” he quips.

Adam and Eve drinking from a stream

We continued our conversation in his sculpture studio, a small building he constructed several years ago in the field below the house. Here he is free to make endless noise and dust without disturbing his wife Ann Beatie, whose writing studio is in the house. “It is a fallacy that the figure is in the marble waiting for the sculptor to release it,” he explains. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to determine how to carve and chip away the stone, keeping in mind the design and hopefully avoiding breakage. Not happy with the stones he was working on from Vermont, he invested in having Carrara marble shipped from Italy and purchased numerous new tools, only to be very disappointed with what he got. “It was so frustrating, after all this investment in time and money, I was about to give it up. But then, I said calm down, and just keep at it.”

I so admire Lincoln’s dedication to his art, his curious mind, and intellect. He often takes a break from painting and sculpting to write – mostly about art. “Seeing Like an Artist: What Artists Perceive in the Art of Others” is a collection of his essays soon to be published by Godine Press.

Inspired by my visit, I came away wanting to learn new things too. It’s that time of year.

Sanctuary Arts and the Green Foundry

Wasting no time, I signed up for a drawing class at Sanctuary Arts. In 1997, artist Christopher Gowell purchased an old church building on Bolt Hill Road in Eliot, converting the building into a community art space that focuses on fine art education. Throughout the year, classes are offered in painting, drawing, ceramics, jewelry, print making, and sculpting. This year’s offerings also include beginner blade-smithing with Josh Dow. The curriculum offerings are always expanding, and the classes are taught by extremely qualified instructors.

When signing up for my class, Christopher reminded me of the Green Foundry’s Annual Iron Pour and Open House scheduled for the next day. The Foundry is located on the Sanctuary Arts property and is both a teaching facility and a fine art metal-casting shop that provides sculpting, molding and casting services to artists and developers. 

I was so glad for her reminder. This annual iron pour event raises money for various non-profits. This year’s proceeds will benefit Sanctuary Arts’ scholarship program. For $15 participants can carve a design into a sand mold which is then cast by the foundry crew.

What a beautiful sight to see dozens of people, many families, sitting at tables under the trees, carving their designs into sand molds. A local three-piece band played music throughout the afternoon, and one could purchase food and drink and enjoy the beautiful grounds.

Everyone enjoyed this blue-sky-day at Sanctuary Arts and the Green Foundry. I was quite proud of my first attempt, “Flowers?” but I really liked Michael Stasiuk’s “Pig.”

Everyone gathered at one o’clock to watch the molten iron poured from the large caldron and into smaller ladles and poured into our finished molds. Although I had come alone, I found many people whom I knew and felt like I made new friends too. The warmth of the late afternoon September sun was matched equally by the warmth and spirit of community. Be sure to watch for next year’s Iron Pour and consider learning something new too. Sanctuary Arts

Ocean Fire Pottery

I cannot keep count of the dozens of times I have driven by Ocean Fire Pottery on Woodbridge Road and never bothered to stop. I was always curious, but just never slowed down and took the time. When I finally did the other day, I introduced myself to owner Amy Clark with a lengthy apology which she gracefully accepted and admitted she has made similar omissions.

Amy has a degree in 3-D design with a concentration in ceramics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After some years of mobility after college followed by an apprenticeship in a Vermont studio, she settled in York 12 years ago, determined to make a living as a ceramic artist. Realistically she had to balance her artistic aspirations with restaurant work to make ends meet. Covid hit the restaurant industry hard last year and Amy gave up her part-time job and focused on her studio practice and business.

To adjust to Covid concerns, she moved her gallery from inside her house to a small tent in her driveway. She kept her open-air gallery open all last winter and invited other artists to join her for pop-up exhibits. She continued to host her “Holiday Extravaganza” for the first weekend in December to coincide with York’s Festival of Lights. Even though the town had to cancel their event, she carried on and still had a great season.

Besides selling work from her York studio, she participates in several craft shows – most recently at Laudholm Farm – and she will be at the Freeport Fall Festival October 2nd and 3rd. She describes her pottery as “earthy and substantial, designed and created to be used and enjoyed. I want each piece to be special, but not limited to special occasions. I create simple forms with natural colors in hopes of evoking serene, effortless emotions from the user.”

Besides her own line of pottery, she does production work and is open to commissions and wedding and gift registries. Although her hours can be variable and weather dependent, her goal is to be open daily. Don’t just drive by like I did, make a point of stopping in. Learn more about Amy and Ocean Fire Pottery in the following video which is also on her website. Ocean Fire Pottery

Michael Walek and Todd Bezold

Artists Michael Walek and Todd Bezold share a beautiful home at the base of Chases Pond in York. The foundation of the original Chases Pond dam is on the property and the adjacent early 19th century house is known as the Dam House.

 I always schedule my visits with them at the end of the day so that Michael has a moment to clean up after his day as a landscape designer and Todd returns from his job at Idexx in Westbrook, Maine.

I had no purpose in my recent visit other than to catch up and see their gardens which are extensive and always inspirational. Michael gave me a tour of the gardens that were bursting with ripe tomatoes, a crazy assortment of beans, heavily laden fruit trees and four-foot-tall brussels sprout branches with budding sprouts. The gardens are obviously laid out with an artistic eye and I enjoyed them with an appreciative envious eye.

There is no question that this is the home of artists. The door that is used daily for coming and going, opens directly into their studio. Paintings are stacked around the room, some in process on easels, some turned to the wall awaiting further consideration, others positioned into frames.  

Both men have a passion for travel and, until recently, have alternated between trips to Egypt and Portugal. Obviously drawn to these far-off places for their novel landscapes and change of atmosphere, they are equally drawn to their local scenery. Almost every weekend they can be found painting en plein air at the York and Wells beaches and marshes, and in the woods around Chases Pond and Mount Agamenticus. Subject matter is never an issue. With inclement weather, there are always bouquets of flowers from the garden to paint. 

Left to right: Walek, Dancing Light Through Flowers / Bezold, Wisteria and Peacock / Walek, Magic Carpet Light
Bezold, Situate Pond Woodlands 

While we sat in the living room, which is filled with paintings and decorative objects, I asked them how art fits into their daily life. Michael explained that while he is working in someone else’s garden, he is not looking at individual plants, but rather stepping back and imagining a painting. “It isn’t always the structure of the plant, tree, or outcropping that I am looking at. I am more concerned with looking through these forms and considering the balance of negative and positive spaces – much like laying out a composition for a painting.”

Todd has a full-time job with Idexx, a technology firm in Westbrook Maine where he spends a good part of his day looking through a microscope. His degree in Molecular Biology focused on detail examination of pumpkin seeds. “The photographs that I took of those seeds turned out to be quite beautiful. I didn’t just see their biology; I was intrigued by their extraordinary color and forms. I think this detailed observation has really helped me with my painting.”

Walek, Rachel Carson Marshland

We discussed how not everyone sees as an artist sees. Many people might look at a tree and say “yes, it is a tree,” while an artist will look at a tree and see “color, texture, form and contrast.” Our conversation about observation continued and I told Michael and Todd how much I was looking forward to my drawing class – specifically a class in Botanical Drawing with Carol Ann Morley. It is not particularly a style of drawing that I aspire to, but I felt the discipline of close and exact observation and rendering will be a way to train my eye to be more observant and as Lincoln says “slow down and keep at it.”

Try to Remember

Opening song from The Fantastics

Try to remember the kind of September

When life was slow and oh, so mellow

Try to remember the kind of September

When grass was green and grain was yellow

Try to remember the kind of September

When you were a tender and callow fellow

Try to remember and if you remember

Then follow, follow

Try to remember when life was so tender

That no one wept except the willow

Try to remember the kind of September

When love was an ember about to billow

Try to remember and if you remember

Then follow, follow

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember

Although you know the snow will follow

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember

The fire of September that made us mellow

Deep in December, our hearts should remember

And follow, follow, follow

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

Mark Twain