Ones to Watch

CLAIRE BIGBEE Smooth Sailing, 2016, acrylic and oil on canvas, 24” x 24”

Five standout artists to keep your eye on.

Nicole Wolf

“I have an affinity for the sea and everything that lives within it. I come from generations of men and women who were born near and thrived off what came out of the ocean. My father was a commercial scuba diver for 35 years, and I remember that he would bring home pieces of past lives that he found hidden on the ocean floor. As a child I was always fascinated by how weathered they were, yet still preserved. While the years of tide and salt had decayed the surface of the materials, the story was still there underneath—living and breathing as if it were created yesterday.

“My series Sunk is a collection of images of artifacts retrieved from the ocean floor off the coast of Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, Canada. I wanted to photograph these artifacts in a way that was nostalgic, leaving unanswered questions about the journey and history of each piece. My hope is to suspend the viewer in the juxtaposition between preservation and decay— emphasizing the strength of history and the fragility of life.”

Holly L. Smith

“For me, the coastline of Maine offers a banquet of inspiration. Traveling to Maine’s remote islands gives me the opportunity to disconnect from modern conveniences and create a sanctuary in which to create my artwork. During a short walk along a rocky shore, carrying oil paints and an easel, I encounter a multitude of intriguing views and compositions. Plein air painting is a meditative experience as I capture the light and memory of the day. These expeditions make me stop and appreciate what is often ignored, such as textures, colors, and light, all of which give Maine its splendor.

“The oil painting All Washed Ashore is the result of such adventures. It illustrates my yearly trek to Eagle Island and daily explorations there. Walking the shoreline feels like a scavenger hunt in which I may discover a perfectly bleached mussel shell that has bounced around in the ocean waves for many seasons, a rare piece of blue sea glass, or a smooth gray stone with a flawless white ring. These treasures are distinct to Maine’s coast, and the way the tide collects them creates a uniquely natural composition.”

Julia Einstein

“I put onto my canvas what I love: the way light enters a space, how color changes from inside to out. Transparency, reflection, and light inspire an ongoing series of mine. My studio is filled with flowers gathered, posed, and painted as portraits. The flowers sit on a stage lit by sunlight that flows through the window. Bouquets are composed to create airy compositions on the canvas with large open spaces for me to paint glasslike surfaces filled with flickers of brushwork. In this painting, pale colors emphasize the flowers’ leggy stems, the painted reflections in the water, and the shapes of shadows. A horizon line creates a sense of an interior space. I love the quick capture of a flower’s gesture in a bouquet arranged with a bit of wildness. I select flowers from a garden rather than a shop, and their elegant lines inspire me to paint from life instead of a photograph or memory. When I paint, I stand in front of them just as a viewer stands before the finished canvas.

“In a career of ‘artist as teacher,’ my work inside and outside of the studio starts with an interest in creating a connection between maker and viewer. I’m inspired to make paintings that change the way one sees my subject, surprise my viewers, and share my delight in color.”

James Mullen

“My work is centered on painting landscapes, often based on photographs and sketches I have made on-site. This is a continuation of a body of work that I have been building over the last two decades dealing with depictions of the environment. Recently I have refined my focus to examine iconic sites belonging to the lexicon of the nineteenth- century American landscape. These sites include Kaaterskill Falls and Lake George in New York and Mount Desert Island. I am augmenting my research by also focusing on notable works of the late-twentieth-century Land Art movement, which created site-specific works out of the actual landscape rather than depicting it. All of these artistic destination landscapes have often been understood through mechanical reproduction, like the dissemination of engravings in the nineteenth century and photography in the twentieth century. In my new body of work, I visit these sites and treat them as primary sources to research and develop. I see many of these sites as iconic condensers of social and natural memory, and I am interested in redefining them through paintings created from primary observation at those locations.”

Claire Bigbee

“My painting journey began when I moved to Maine at age 12. I felt disconnected and uneasy due to the move. I was drawn to the nearby river marshes for the access they gave me to a spiritual realm that eased my anxieties. It is those mystic sensations that I strive to capture in my painting. I experience a nervous urgency before painting my first impression of a view. I feel like liquid, hovering between my intellectual mind and instinct. I work quickly and don’t organize my palette. I mix colors right on the canvas with large brushes that broaden the proportions and values. I love that initial white-heat moment of inspiration as my bold colors confront the softer brushwork and create tension and harmony. My compositions juxtapose the near and far and capture various natural shapes that evoke atmosphere and a sense of presence.

“I strive for simplicity rather than complexity through observation, editing, and balancing contiguous colors. In my paintings, I look for the feeling of the overall tone or vibrational glow. On location, the grandeur of nature communicates with me, and everything comes into focus. My landscapes are manifestations of my authentic self in which I don’t question who I am. My experience of painting is a spiritual transformation, and each painting carries a piece of my soul within it.”