“Near the Shore,” oil, John Neville COURTESY OF COURTHOUSE GALLERY

Stories to tell: Compelling photos, paintings on view at Courthouse Gallery

ELLSWORTH — Deer Isle artist Jeffery Becton, whose photo montages explore the lines between dream and reality, is inspired by the tidal reaches and atmospheric weather and classic houses that stand out starkly in the coastal Maine landscape. His work is the focus of “Jeffery Becton: Meditations on Ambivalence” on view through Oct. 15 at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art.

Also highlighted in a separate show are paintings and sculpture by John Neville, Robert Shillady, Kate Emlen, Philip Koch, Ed Nadeau and Stephan Porter. Admission is free to the public and exhibited online as well.

“Jeffery Becton: Meditations on Ambivalence” features a selection of Becton’s large-scale provocative photomontages. His work plays with the borders between dream and reality, interior and exterior — walls, floors, and ceilings open to the elements — and to the imagination. His montages are printed on aluminum using a process called dye-sublimation, which uses heat to fuse the image into the aluminum. These non-glare aluminum prints are then floated in a wooden shadow box or float frame without glass, giving them a tactile presence.

A pioneer in fine-art photography, Becton received a master’s in fine arts from the Yale School of Art in 1976. At Yale, he worked on the mainframe computer at in the computer science lab. The experience that primed him to welcome the new digital tools in the mid-1980s. By the early 1990s, he was experimenting with the layering of visual information.

Living year-round in Deer Isle, Becton creates surreal scenarios evocative of that in-between world one inhabits when living by the sea. His work has been in numerous solo, group and juried exhibitions. His photo montages also been highlighted in national and international publications, including the Royal Academy 2022 Summer Exhibition in London. In 2015, Marshall Wilkes (Ellsworth) published a monograph on Becton’s work, and in 2016, the Bates College Museum of Art held a solo exhibition of the large-scale monographs that traveled to Tennessee, Florida and Virginia. His work is included in the museum collections of Bates College Museum of Art, Farnsworth Museum of Art and Portland Museum of Art.

Included in the group show, Canadian maritime artist John Neville divides his time between Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia, where he has lived much of his life, and the Midcoast Maine town of Damariscotta. “Women’s Revenge” is among his narrative paintings drawn from his life in the Canadian Maritimes. He traces the painting’s story back to 1880s in Hall’s Harbour. The story goes, the workmen at the Buckman Shipyard & Sawmill in Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia, had been purchasing alcohol on credit from a local bootlegger. This was done by writing orders on a chip of wood and sending a boy up to the bootlegger’s house with the signed chip called “chip orders.” Payment was expected on the shipyard’s payday. The spouses were, of course, not pleased with their husbands’ reduced paychecks.

“Martin Porter’s house was located on the edge of the steep bank overlooking Hall’s Harbour,” Neville relates. “One morning the women gathered to seek their revenge. My great-grandmother (Mrs. John Neville) was involved, having left the house early without telling anyone where she was going.

Mysteriously, the next “chip order” of bootleg liquor was returned with the instructions “No more chip orders, cash only.”

Courthouse Gallery Fine Art is located at 6 Court St. in Ellsworth. For more info, call 667-6611, email [email protected] and visit courthousegallery.com.

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