At Water’s Edge
THE CANVAS – August 2014
By Jamie Thompson
The ocean’s vast expanse inspires a sense of adventure: on the verge of setting out into open water, there is a feeling that anything is possible. From the tranquility of a pristine shoreline to the hustle and bustle of a working waterfront, Ann Getsinger, Carol Sloane, and Linda Norton paint at the water’s edge, where the imagination can set sail.
Getsinger was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. She studied at the Paier School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut and at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, and studied privately with artist Sheldon Fink. She has participated in several group shows and solo exhibitions throughout New England at venues such as the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Infinity Gallery in Norfolk, Connecticut, and Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, New York. She lives in Marlborough, Massachusetts and is represented by Wiscasset Bay Gallery.
Getsinger’s paintings are rooted in the traditions of realism, but she injects her work with playfulness and surrealism. She notes that her work has the qualities of “mysterious, multi-tiered, unfolding narrative, much like a book with a main plot and subplots, symbols, twists, many characters, layers of meaning, and a lot between the lines.” This literary metaphor carries through as she describes her choices in subject matter. “I enjoy placing objects slightly out of context or arranged in unusual ways. This allows me to see them in a new and fresh light,” says Getsinger. “The relationships that form between objects, location, time, and atmosphere suggest a story unfolding.” Her creative process occurs in a similarly organic fashion. She likens it to “taking a trip to an unknown destination. The plan unfolds as I go along.” Getsinger begins with a single object, a grouping of objects, or an idea that has special resonance for her. Once she starts painting, she lets the experience take her where it will. “It is a playful and intuitive process where I practice trusting the freedom to let my mind wander,” she says.
Getsinger has had a strong connection to Maine since childhood. Her family built a cottage near Port Clyde in 1968, where Getsinger has returned every year for decades. “That rocky shore and view of the ocean, horizon, and islands during the past 45 years has become etched in my heart and in my mind’s eye,” she says. “Those views appear often in my work.” A fish vertebra atop a brick-shaped piece of driftwood forms a whimsical seaside scene in Aeropesca. Despite the serenity and harmony of the composition, there is a great sense of movement in the painting. Wispy, windblown clouds and foamy waves breaking on the shore suggest an invigorating summer’s day, while the tilt of the fishbone evokes an airplane in flight. Adding to the sense of movement, the bone levitates ever so slightly above the driftwood. Says Getsinger: “That tiny space was the place of excitement for me in this painting and I kept asking myself ‘Is it taking off or landing?'” Viewers can contemplate that question as well, and therein lies the brilliance of Getsinger’s art. Her evocative images are open for interpretation, taking viewers on a journey of the imagination.
Sloane was born in New York City. She earned a bachelor of science in fine arts from Skidmore College and was a student at the Art Students League of New York. Sloane moved to Maine in 1972, first living in Montville and then in Washington, where she has resided since 1975. She has held residencies on Monhegan Island and in Johnson, Vermont; Taos, New Mexico; Ballinskelligs, Ireland; and Nova Scotia, Canada. Sloane has exhibited widely in Maine, in both solo and group shows, at venues such as Downtown Gallery in Washington, Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, Betts Gallery in Belfast, Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth, Portland Museum of Art, Greenhut Galleries in Portland, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland. She was a founding member of Downtown Gallery and is currently represented by Elizabeth Moss Galleries and Betts Gallery. Sloane is participating in the Monhegan Artists’ Residency 25th Anniversary Exhibition at the Thos. Moser Freeport Showroom and Outlet through October 14 and at Archipelago Fine Arts Gallery in Rockland through August 29.
Sloane is a self-described “artist and timetracker.” Her paintings render the passage of time in two dimensions, often depicted by more than one image on the same canvas. Sometimes her layering of images is subtle, and other times she places different images adjacent to each other on the canvas in a quilt-like arrangement. Her subject matter varies, from landscapes to portraits of people and animals, but her goal remains consistent: to represent the ebb and flow of life. “When I paint water, I like to incorporate the shifts in the landscape made by the tides. Similarly, I cherish the changes made by the movement of sun or clouds, as they add depth to my layers of imagery,” says Sloane. “When I paint people or animals my overlapping of images means that they too are never still, but evolving and shifting their relationships to each other.”
Belfast Pilings is part of a series of paintings that Sloane created from photographs taken at the Belfast walking bridge. The piece exemplifies her creative process: she draws from a photograph onto canvas with oil paint, and then fleshes out the details of the image. “Then I draw from another photo directly over the first, leaving some of the earlier image exposed,” Sloane explains. “I continue to build a collage of layers until a story unfolds.” Belfast Pilings is a document of the tides and the shifts in atmosphere. Sloane’s fluid brushwork captures the rippling waters as the pilings dissolve into hazy reflections. The painting’s subject is suited to Sloane’s “desire to track movement in paint.” Not only are the tides continuously coming and going, but the pilings also call to mind a busy waterfront, bustling with boats and people. Sometimes, the thought that nothing in life is constant can be daunting or frightening. But Sloane’s paintings prove the beauty and excitement of new possibilities.
Norton lived in Cobalt, Connecticut before relocating to her mother’s family home in Camden in 2000. She maintains her own studio in Camden, which is open to visitors. She is an elected artist member of the Lyme Art Association in Connecticut, a U.S. Coast Guard Art Program Elected Artist and George Gray Award recipient, a signature artist member of the American Society of Marine Artists, and a member of the National Watercolor Society and Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. She has participated in exhibitions across the United States, including at the Kentucky Watercolor Society’s 36th Annual National Juried Competition, the Buffalo History Museum in New York, the Connecticut River Museum, the Coos Art Museum in Oregon, and the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. In 2001, four of Norton’s paintings were selected for inclusion in the U.S. Coast Guard’s permanent collection. She is affiliated with River Arts in Damariscotta.
Family and tradition are important inspirations for Norton. She credits her mother, Ruth Leadbetter Norton, with introducing her to art at a young age and supporting her endeavors. The sea is a major part of her family’s rich history and she has inherited a love of the salt spray, the crashing waves, and adventures on board water bound vessels. “I remember all the tales of being on the water from family members: lobstering, scalloping, boat repair, sailing, and Grandpa being asked to become a captain of a private yacht in the 1920s,” she says. Norton’s work depicts the many aspects of seafaring life, such as boatbuilding, docks, seascapes, busy crews on deck, and the intricate network of sails and rigging. “Works ‘on deck’ usually are done from my photos that I take on board,” she explains. “It is too difficult to paint on a moving ship, especially one that heels over and dumps your materials into the sea.”
Her process varies depending on the piece, but her medium of choice is watercolor. “Each work is truly new to me as I find my approach differs according to the image and what draws me to it,” says Norton. Typically she ponders her process before setting brush to paper, making initial sketches very lightly so that they can be removed after painting. Norton admits the difficulty of watercolor, yet says, “I love it because of all the challenges it presents as well as the rewards.” She enjoys the transparency that the medium provides. “I can get more depth to the shadows, glow to the sunlight,” she says.
Lobster Buoys and Traps depicts accoutrements familiar to those who know and love the waterfront. The bright buoys stand out as the focal point, framed on the left by wooden pilings and on the right by stacked lobster traps. Complementary blue and orange make the scene pop, as labyrinthine lines and grids invite the eye to explore nooks and crannies. “The challenge to me is to present that instant look of curiosity and also give the image a depth to pull the viewer in where they will discover much, much more,” Norton says. The piece’s composition compels the viewer to delve further into the story behind the objects it depicts. Norton notes that the painting “represents not only my family heritage, but also the working waterfront that we are so quickly losing.” The tools of a hardworking lobsterman are “an example of the strength of Maine’s independence and pride,” she says. Lobster Buoys and Traps, although comprised of inanimate objects, forms a portrait of the tough, resilient people who work with determination despite the many challenges they face.