Fresh from the studio



Five Maine artists’ new works featured

ELLSWORTH — “Five Maine Artists,” a show featuring new sculpture and paintings by Matt Barter, Philip Barter, Philip Frey, John Neville and Christina Thwaites, is slated to open June 12 and run through July 9 at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art. The public is welcome to view the show online or in person observing state and federal COVID 19-related protocols. 

Three of the featured artists, Philip Barter (Philip), Neville and Frey, are painters who have refined their skills and explored new terrain over 30 to 60 years and continue to produce fresh, engaging work. 

Christina Thwaites and Matt Barter are emerging Maine artists whose work further enriches the breadth of Maine contemporary artwork.

In his Brunswick studio, Matt Barter spent this past winter creating a collection of impressionistic folk-art wood constructions. The figures are fishermen and their wives who go about their daily chores — mowing the lawn, washing and ironing laundry, dipping bait, repairing boats and lobster traps. The artist uses found objects and reclaimed old barn beams, which give his subjects a rugged, weather-worn character. In “Ironing Day” and “Laundry Day,” the women are brawny in build. While his sculptures are small scale, they make a powerful statement and have been likened in potential significance to the late Cushing sculptor Bernard Langlais work. 

Neville’s painting “Salmon Supper” is a reincarnation of his early etching inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” A master printmaker for 20 years, the Nova Scotian artist switched to painting after experiencing an allergic reaction to etching chemicals 28 years ago. This colorful painting features 25 men, women and children as well as three U.S. presidents’ portraits. The setting is, perhaps, a grange hall or community building. The occasion is a celebration of the bountiful salmon harvest, as evidenced by the classic Maine “salmon and peas” on plates, harkening back to the state’s once abundant wild salmon run in spring. Mashed potatoes, biscuits, homemade pie, water pitchers and other traditional food and drink are captured. The fisherman, who caught the salmon, sits center stage, his eyes cast down, showing reverence for the fish. The artist divides his time between Damariscotta and Prince Edward Island.

In “Young Ladies at the Beach,” Orono artist Christina Thwaites uses a monochromatic palette to depict three bikini-clad girls holding hands while a fourth girl, in a modest one-piece suit, watches them from the sidelines. Perhaps she is fearful of being judged, or wishing she belonged to this group. The bikini girls radiate confidence — two look straight out at the viewer — while the third, and the tallest girl, looks at the outsider with all the attitude of a “mean girl.” 

For years, Sullivan artist Philip Frey used acrylic paint and was known for his bright bold palette. When he switched to oils about 10 years ago, his paintings took on a rich luster. The surfaces in his most recent landscapes are so creamy they look like he painted them with butter. In “Crystalline Coast,” a typical scene of a rocky Maine shore, his brush moves and glides around the forms and structures. His wide, flat strokes create the angles and planes of a huge bolder caught in the bright light of a setting sun. His dramatic lighting and handling of the paint makes this rocky shore anything but ordinary. 

Franklin artist Philip Barter began painting after discovering the work of another Maine-born artist Marsden Hartley. Hartley became Barter’s muse, and he has painted for the past 60 years. He begins with small sketches, 3-by-3 inches or smaller, to simplify the landscape. Then he uses strong color and simple shapes that dominate his paintings as they do in “Mt. Bigalow.” A simple arc forms a mountain. Repeated, upside-down Vs create a forest of pine trees, and the corner of an ominous brown cloud peaks out, threatening rain. 

Courthouse Gallery Fine Art is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks and social distancing are required. For more info, call 667-6611, email [email protected] and visit courthousegallery.com. 

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