Trenton artist Kaitlyn Metcalf says seeing nudibranchs while scuba-diving in Southeast Asia inspired her to portray the brightly colored sea slugs in in large-scale acrylic paintings. Her work is on view starting May 1 at Blue Hill Public Library.

Feature artists’ great curiosity reflected in their works



BLUE HILL — Small, but powerful, sea slugs derive their vivid color from the anemone, jellyfish and other toxic marine animals that they consume. Called nudibranchs, these tiny psychedelic creatures store their victims’ venom, transferring it from their gut to their skin. 

No larger than 3 inches, are the focus of some of Trenton artist Kaitlyn Metcalf’s paintings on view starting Saturday, May 1, in the Blue Hill Public Library’s Britton Gallery and Howard Room. Metcalf used acrylics, gold leaf and an array of glass glitter to capture the sea slugs on large canvases. Her close observation of the creatures came during a pandemic-driven escape to Southeast Asia, where she dove off the shores of Thailand and Indonesia.

“It seems extraordinary that they can ingest poison from another and turn it into something beneficially beautiful,” the artist writes. “I am inspired by their ability to absorb the dangers in their environment, quietly converting it into something sensational. By observing nudibranchs on a large scale, the viewer can feel as if they are floating with these small but powerful creatures. As a painter engaging in an ever-changing environment, I choose to use the negativity that seems so prevalent in the world right now to create something bizarrely beautiful as a sign of hope that toxic transformations are within our reach.”

During her trip and dives, Metcalf was struck by the “contrast of these two worlds, above and below. Neither feeling dependent nor concerned about the other, but in reality, critically intertwined.”

In addition, the library’s month-long show also features Metcalf’s “Century One: Acadia series.” In honor of Acadia National Park’s 100th birthday, the artist created 100 paintings inspired by objects and images found in local archives, including Acadia. The paintings feature well-known scenes, along with hidden gems from the park’s history that viewers are sure to find surprising and intriguing.

All are welcome to visit the exhibit in the library’s Britton Gallery and Howard Room, but it will also be available for viewing online in the library’s virtual gallery at www.bhpl.net/exhibits. For more information about Kaitlyn Metcalf and her paintings, visit: www.MossKeepStudio.com.

During the months of May, June and July, the library will hold a retrospective exhibit celebrating the works of the late Blue Hill artisan Eliot Sweet (Oct. 16, 1906-July 18,2000) in the Howard Room’s glass cases. Curated by his granddaughter Kathleen Murray, the exhibit will include Sweet’s pottery, carved and turned objects and paintings showing his wide skill set and artistic talents. Having been born and died in Blue Hill, Sweet is known locally in part due to his endless curiosity. Referred to by friends and family as a “classic Mainer,” he spent much of his time working with his hands and finding uses for items or bits of nature he didn’t want to see wasted, which led to a life of creativity and artistry. His many talents included building boats, furniture, toys and violins, as well as carving animal sculptures and building clocks made from recycled parts.

According to his granddaughter, “My interest in Eliot makes me chuckle a bit. I live with all of these various works of art and utilitarian pieces every day of my life. He was a very important part of Blue Hill while he was alive,” she noted. “Doing everything from making and upholstering furniture to carving birds and animals, in addition to being part of the art community from its birth. The majority of the show will consist of a myriad of crafted things made by my grandfather.”

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