The Farnsworth Art Museum’s Anneli Skaar on Painting the Arctic

Fine artist and graphic designer Anneli Skaar was recently named as the new creative director at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Born to Norwegian parents, Skaar nourishes a lifelong interest in tundra territories, which often surfaces as the subject of her oil paintings. In her interview with MH+D Inside Out, Skaar explains why she focuses on the Arctic in her most recent work and how Rockland has become a top arts destination.

Q. A lot of your fine art takes the Arctic as a subject. What fascinates you so much about it?

A. I’m painting a portrait of a disappearing landscape. Greenland is so gorgeous, but there’s this sense of dread in it as well. It’s hard to imagine change, but it is changing. Once you get up to the Arctic, the landscape strips away all the extra details and really gets to the core of change and solitude. There’s a sense of mortality in the landscape. When we talk about the Arctic disappearing, we are talking about ourselves in a way.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. I think a certain self-reflection happens when you are in front of a landscape like that. You notice the change that is happening and realize your own part in it. You have to figure out whether you are capable of changing with the landscape. When we meet resistance or some sort of change, we tend to shut down, but we can also go with it and try to find a way around it. As I get older, I’m in a place in my life where that’s my personal experience, too.

Q. How does your work represent Maine?

A. A lot of the paintings I have done look at living and working on the ice, whether it’s ice fishing in huts or airstreams. In that harsh winter, those activities are so symbolic of the difficulty of living up here. There’s a very thin layer of ice between you and the darkness below.

Q. It seems like Rockland draws in so many artists. Why is that?

A. Rockland is being branded as the arts capitol of Maine. We have such a dense little downtown where you have the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, the Farnsworth, the Strand Theatre, and all these amazing restaurants. I’m excited to see how Rockland evolves in the next few years.