THE CANVAS-November/December 2010
by Annaliese Jakimides
Andrea Peters, Tom Curry, Chris Huntington
“Nothing is worth more than this day.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Complexity of the Simple
Andrea Peters acknowledges she has no interest in painting man-made things. It’s the natural world in all its complex simplicity that draws her in over and over again. Each place talks to her, she says. And most of those places are right outside her own front door, or back door, in East Boothbay, where in all seasons she often returns to the same garden or cluster of trees to capture the subtleties of shifting place as well as the subtleties of her own shifting eye.
She describes her new work, including Warming Lights, as “increasingly simplified, stripping away unnecessary clutter in the landscape.” She prefers to paint in winter. “I love the challenge of trying to find color in such…I don’t want to call it blandness. The truth is that I paint for me, but I do want the viewer to feel the emotion with which I am working. My goal is a spontaneous and accurate experience of that moment,” she says.
Peters is attentive to the needs of one painting at a time, absorbed in it, whether it is three inches by three inches or four feet by four feet. Although she paints in other sizes, she is, she says, in love with the square format, because the painting is “not influenced by the shape, and so anything is possible.”
Particularly in winter, Peters can be found working at one of several easels set up throughout her house. She moves them from room to room to capture new light, a view of the harbor, the spent gardens, the violet-tinted velvet of snow. About ten years ago, an addition positioned her studio between the master bedroom suite and the rest of the house, and so each morning when she starts her day, she must pass through the studio. “It is my first experience of every day.”
A graduate of Massachusetts College of Art (now Massachusetts College of Art and Design), Andrea Peters’s work has been included in group exhibitions throughout the Northeast as well as in solo exhibitions in Maine and Boston. Her paintings are held in many private collections across the country. She is represented in Maine by Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor and Portland.
Here, nature has a very strong voice,” says Tom Curry. “Here,” for Curry, is Brooklin, and the voice he has been compelled to translate for fourteen years is that of Chatto Island, now the subject of more than forty of his paintings, or “portraits,” as he calls them.
Curry, a plein air painter, initially used Chatto as his compass, a way to orient himself while he assessed wind and tide and clouds before he headed out in search of the best spot to paint. But the island, it seems, had other intentions, and before long Curry found it the center of his creative universe. His beginnings with Chatto were similar to all of his beginnings: “I go to a site. I skip stones. I walk. And I wait until one thing has more strength, and I leave my rational mind. It’s intuitive,” he says.
“I began first by making small pastel drawings of the island at dusk,” Curry recalls. He found, however, that the pastels refused to give him the “kind of detail and seamlessness in the sky” he wanted. And so he traded pastels for oils, and started using a ratio of two-thirds sky to one-third water in his compositions. And with this approach he exposed the real face of the island.
At all hours of the day, during every season, in all kinds of weather, he would walk down to the beach and look out at Chatto. And the more he painted it, the more he “realized that these pictures were becoming a visual diary of the feeling of a day—both the memory and the experience.”
And so, in After the Storm we read the story of this island where, Curry explains, “ice is a sentence,” and with it, too, sky and wave, rock and tree, and the tender bruise of clouds.
Tom Curry has taught in a wide variety of places, including the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, the deCordova Museum School in Massachusetts, and the American School in London. He holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MS from the University of Massachusetts. His work is in private collections and institutions throughout the United States, and is available through Gleason Fine Art, Wiscasset Bay Gallery, and the George Marshall Store Gallery.
Returning to the Depths
In 1962, while staying in a twenty-dollar-a-week cottage in Corea, Chris Huntington created a series of small oil paintings at West Bay Stream in Gouldsboro. In 1963, he had his first Maine exhibition at the West Gouldsboro Post Office. He still has a few paintings with the three-dollar price on the back. Over the next ten years, he prowled the coastal landscape exploring and painting both the exposed and the hidden. And then he didn’t.
“Over the passage of time I came to believe that painting coastal subject matter in a realistic manner had become clichéd,” he says. And so Huntington moved inland, to “subject matter that was not so obviously pictorial.” He bought a hundred-year-old schoolhouse on the Happy Corner Road in Patten overlooking the entire Katahdin range, and concentrated intensely on the streams and rivers northwest of Shin Pond.
“For the last fifteen years,” he says, “I have trudged through the springtime snow and mud to get to the waters when they are near the height of rush, capturing what I see in oils, oil pastels, and more recently, palette knives.”
He works “directly from nature,” he says, “and when the last stroke goes down, I say to myself, ‘That’s it’ and practically never touch the paintings again with brush.”
Motivated, at least partially, by the sixtieth anniversary of Marsden Hartley’s death, Huntington returned to Corea and coastal painting in 2003, and over the next five years he created a series of paintings, including Lobsters and Surf Scoters, to see whether he now had something new to say.
Huntington is both a collector—the first painting he bought was Kinsman Falls by Marsden Hartley—and a preservationist—painting woods and wilderness, water, and now the blueberry lands around Franklin “as the bulldozers are removing the boulders, almost before my very eyes.”
The first curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, Chris Huntington’s work has been exhibited in galleries in New York, Canada, and Maine. A serious art collector, he has also lectured at the Portland Museum of Art. Huntington’s paintings are in many private and museum collections, including those of the Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum. His work is available through Littlefield Gallery in Winter Harbor.