Katahdin region inspires plein-air paintings on view

BLUE HILL — Maine’s highest mountain and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, encompassing 87,563 acres of mountains and forestland east of Baxter State Park, inspired Brooklin artist Alison C. Dibble and Sherman artist Candace McKellar to create 54 paintings on view through Feb. 27 at the Blue Hill Public Library. Observing COVID-19 protocol, the public is welcome to see the plein-air oils in person in the Britton Gallery and the Howard Room. The exhibit “Katahdin Country” also can be seen online at https://www.bhpl.net/exhibits/.

“Clouds Arrive at Tableland,” oil on panel, Alison Dibble
“Moose on a Hot Day, oil on panel, Alison Dibble

For over 12 years, Dibble and McKeller have painted together outdoors in all seasons — throughout the pandemic — around Mount Katahdin (elevation 5,267 feet) and the surrounding countryside. Together, they have driven to remote locations, hiked and carried their paints in their backpacks, sat in the car with the heater running while they painted in the front seat and endured hordes of biting insects that distracted from the otherwise cerebral activity.

McKellar, who taught art from 1988 to 2008 at Katahdin Schools (MSAD 25), started painting Katahdin in 1975. From her Sherman home, the artist can see Katahdin, rising 25 miles away across a beautiful valley, off to the east. She regularly volunteers at the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and is well-acquainted with the Katahdin area’s road system. In her paintings she seeks to capture the sweep of distance with the 5,286-foot mountain as a major feature that the eye eventually rests upon.

Before retiring in 2020, Dibble worked as a University of Maine research scientist and botanist. She coordinated with Baxter State Park to document the lichens and mosses above Chimney Pond on Katahdin and is among the authors who published the results in peer review journals. More recently, Dibble and McKellar surveyed plants for a hands-on guide, “The Plants of Baxter State Park” (Mittelhauser et al., 2016, University of Maine Press), which is available at the Blue Hill Library. Dibble is one of the authors. In her paintings, she takes a bold approach to a story.

Since the late 1980s, retired research scientist and biologist Alison Dibble and Candace McKellar have painted Mount Katahdin and other features of Baxter State Park as well as the Katahdin countryside. In recent years, they have spent much time capturing the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. CLAIRE DIBBLE PHOTO

Dibble and McKellar met in 1986 at a meeting of Maine’s Josselyn Botanical Society, founded in 1895 to preserve the state’s natural flora and foster an appreciation of native plants, and formed an immediate bond and shared quest to pursue art in the outdoors. They hiked Katahdin together in 1989 to help survey for rare plants. While their painting approaches to a scene differ, they studied together under notable Maine painters such as Frank Sullivan of Littleton, Donald Demers of East Boothbay, Marsha Donahue of Millinocket and Olena Babak of Hartland.

Dibble and McKellar have been greatly inspired by Mount Katahdin, but the friends also paint the local countryside, with its rich wildlife, picturesque farms and unique villages. Along with Millinocket artist Marsha Donahue of North Light Gallery, they are among the first painters to interpret views in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. They usually paint in oils, quickly, outdoors in front of their subject, and finish a painting on site.

“Amish Farm in Winter, oil, Candace McKellar

Dibble and McKellar’s wealth of Katahdin region-inspired artwork can be seen during library hours Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closing time is 8 p.m. on Thursday and 5 p.m. on Saturday. The paintings are for sale, with half the proceeds going to the library.

For more info, call 374-5515 or email [email protected].


Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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