The time had come to take another road trip. There hadn’t been the need to wait for a nice day, as this summer produced one nice day after another. All the same, I threw in my raincoat at the last minute and started off Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m.
Once again, my trip was instigated by a recommendation from my friend and artist Barbara Sullivan. She suggested I stop in to see the current group exhibition at the Chocolate Church in Bath. When driving through the city of Bath, one can’t miss the soaring, chocolate-brown tower and the distinctive, mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival architecture. After many decades of its serving as a church, the congregation merged with another, and the property was sold in 1965. The building’s fate was uncertain and poised for demolition when members of the community stepped in to save the structure and gave the building new purpose as The Chocolate Church Arts Center.
Since 1977 it has been the home of Maine’s dynamic mid-coast regional performing and visual arts center offering a rich program of live music, gallery exhibitions, theatre for young artists, lectures, and workshops.
I thoroughly enjoyed the current exhibition “Summer Breeze” curated by artist Breehan James. Unfortunately, the show will probably be closed by the time you read this, but I encourage you to check out their website t see what is coming next. The building is also worth stopping in to see.
I picked up a delicious sandwich at “Sisters – A Gourmet Deli” just down the street from the Chocolate Church. The building is a repurposed gas station with bright trim, colorful picnic tables and flower boxes in front. This is an easy exit just before the Sagadahoc bridge – a great place to pick up a sandwich for a road trip.
Another favorite establishment in Bath is Now You’re Cooking at 49 Front Street — providing quality cookware, gadgets, wine, gourmet foods and cooking classes since 2000. In my opinion, it is the best kitchen/cookware store in Maine.
The Road to Friendship
I have traveled and written about trips to mid-coast Maine several times and have always felt remiss about not stopping in to visit artists Sam Cady and K. Min. I left Route One in Waldoboro and followed Route 220, ten miles down the peninsula to Friendship, an authentic Maine harbor and village. There is not much to attract the average tourist, but it is an extremely charming and quiet retreat. One can find accommodations in a bed and breakfast, a meal at Jameson Point Lobster Co. and provisions can be purchased at Wallace’s Market where you can also catch up on local and worldly news.
Sam and K. (pronounced “Kay Dot”) live in an old local house with more recent additions. They enjoy a view carpeted with ferns and low spruce down to the harbor. I spent my first hour with K. in her light-filled, high ceiling studio. Her paintings are neatly hung around the room, several that she is working on lean up against the wall, and there are stacks and rows of small plastic boxes containing the insects she has collected as models for her still life paintings. “I do not kill them,” she defends, “I find them already dead by the doorway and in the garden and friends give me specimens.”
K. received her master’s degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Besides her small paintings of a collection of insects, many of her larger paintings depict empty rooms, often with an angled shaft or dappled spot of light radiating from an unseen source. These are quiet, elegant paintings that can evoke an emotion of sadness and at the same time, an emotion of peace and quiet. The surfaces of the paintings are built up slowly with oil paint. There are no visual brush strokes, and the surfaces are smooth and flat.
I suggested that these quiet paintings reflect K.’s persona. She quickly corrected me and said “I try to have a quiet mind but I am not quiet inside. It is this balance that I try to make in my paintings.”
A recent suite of paintings depicts the corners of museum interiors and are titled after painters that she admires including Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico, and Anthony Lopes Garcia. “Museums are complicated spaces. I was visiting the MET in New York and was overwhelmed by too many people and paintings, when I saw a random shadow cast by a guard rail that was protecting a painting. I thought it was so beautiful.” Her observations and interpretations of objects, spaces and places can be defined by Wabi Sabi – the ability to find beauty in imperfection and impermanence.
K. has exhibited both in Korea and the United States. She is represented by Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland Maine. Her work will be included in a group exhibition this October at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland and she has a solo show scheduled for January 2023 at Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston.
I crossed the yard to Sam’s studio, a small building that he built several years ago with funding from a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant. The side and back walls are plastered with snapshot photographs of favorite places, interspersed with his work and the work of artists that he admires and often pays homage to. The front wall has an arrangement of recent large-scale shaped canvases and other in-process canvases are scattered around the room.
Perhaps not quite as tidy as K.’s studio, but a reflection of the way Sam thinks and works. Before even talking about his work, he shared what he was currently reading. He expressed enthusiasm for Colin Woodward’s The Lobster Coast. “It really helps me better understand the people who live here in Friendship. Their history included murder, devastation, and kidnapping during the Indian wars. Things didn’t improve much under British rule. It is no wonder that Mainers have such a strong steak of independence and determination.” After thirty years of living in New York City, Sam came home to Maine in 2000 and to this day, can’t image living anywhere else. “I live in a community that is as interesting and dynamic as any big city.”
We moved on to reading a paragraph by the early 20th century philosopher Nietzsche and then a couple good cartoons by Gary Larson. Studio visits can be both visual and mind-expanding experiences.
In 1967, soon after completing a master’s degree in art from Indiana University, Sam headed to New York City where he did odd jobs to support himself and his art practice. Although not considered a Pop artist his shaped and cutout canvases were a natural progression from the movement that included artists such as Any Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann. His early paintings of singular objects and landscape fragments received praise and recognition when his piece Highway Fragment: Exit Overpass was accepted into the 1975 Whitney Biennial.
Throughout the following decades he has received numerous awards and has exhibited widely in the US and Japan with concentration in NYC, Boston and Maine where he is represented by Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland. He is currently completing a body of work for an upcoming solo exhibition at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston.
He explained that after so many years focusing on form, shape, and color his work has new social/political implications. The juxtaposition of a highway overpass with a tent suggests homelessness. A massive breakwater symbolizes protection and separation. He had already started working on a painting of a giant sunflower before the war in Ukraine began. His sunflower looks almost heroic, surging with confidence and optimism. “It is as if all the years of painting have opened me up to wider realms of expression like the peeling of an onion.” His excitement for his new work and reflections was palpable and will be on full display in his Boston show which opens at the Howard Yezerski Gallery Gallery in Boston October 28th and continues through December17th.
Click Here to read an article about Sam written by Edgar Been which appeared in the September 2002 issue of Downeast Magazine.
Rockland and fine dining
It is only a half hour drive from Friendship to Rockland which has become a hub for Maine art and artists. The Farnsworth Museum and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art are the non-profit anchor establishments that are complemented by many fine art galleries and a vibrant restaurant scene. I met Barbara Sullivan at the Caldbeck Gallery where her solo show was in its final week. I am a fan of her shaped fresco paintings, and based on sales of her work, I am not alone.
Although we didn’t have a reservation, we drove down Main Street to the restaurant Primo. Reservations must usually be made weeks in advance at this very popular restaurant, but if you arrive at the door at 5:00, you may be lucky as we were, and find an open table or seat at the bar. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with excellent service and a perfect conclusion to my day on the road and visits with artists.
I broke up my return trip by stopping in Portland to have lunch with George Lloyd, a dear friend, and an artist with an intriguing bi-coastal career. I always feel the need for a well-fortified breakfast before I meet with George. He is a fast talker, spewing names of artists and exhibitions, jumping topics, subdued one minute, overly excited the next. He is passionate about art and is extremely knowledgeable about art history. He credits many who came before him, often referencing everything from classical figures on Greek urns to the exuberant brushwork in a John Singer Sargent painting.
George is a native of Boston. He received his bachelor’s degree at the Rhode Island School of Design and his master’s of fine art at Yale. In 1969 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to teach at UC, Berkeley. These California years were a pivotable period for the artist. In the early 70’s he participated in weekly figurative drawing sessions with Joan Brown, Elmer Bischoff and others in the Bay Area.
He moved to Portland in 1984 and continued to exhibit in California as well as New England. He never left behind his interest in the figure even as he explored other themes with elements of atchitecture and geometry. Even in his most recent work, there is often a shadow of a figure peeking through. It doesn’t matter to me if he is exploring abstraction or the figure – I just think of his work as damn good paintng.
Over the years, I gave George several one-person shows at the George Marshall Store Gallery and am particularly proud of his 2018 show titled “Time and Again,” which combined work from the 70’s in California with more recent work. Art reviewer Daniel Kany titled his article “Seductive power of George Lloyd’s brushwork – He knits together many of the best parts of American painting from both coasts well enough to take them someplace completely new.”
George is represented in Portland by Greenhut Galleries and Cove Street Arts. Owners Kelley Lehr and John Danos are very enthusiastic about his work and have given him a studio space at their Cove Street location, naming him their first Artist in Residence. An exhibition of the work from this residency will be presented in a future solo exhibition.
I have done it – finished an article after too long of a hiatus. I thoroughly enjoy my visits with artists and discovering other things along the way. People often ask me if I miss the gallery. I reply “not too much but I do miss the people.” This newsletter helps me continue to feel connected. Thank you for reading.
P.S. Some people also ask me “What has happened to the gallery.” I am pleased to say that Kate Rasche is the new director of the George Marshall Store Gallery. I gave her the URL for the gallery but if you want to receive her announcements, please visit the gallery, or sign up on the website. She is doing a great job and it is such a special place.