Since it is National Youth Art Month, it seems a good time to consider Maine’s “emerging artists.” Many galleries around the state take tourist-free spring as an opportunity to give emerging local artists a chance to prove themselves.
Aucocisco in Portland, for example, just opened “Audition” — a completely un-ironic title for an exhibition giving eight artists a shot at the gallery roster.
Bayview Gallery is a very conservative gallery that shows more gold-framed landscapes in the tradition of American Impressionism than anything else. Bayview’s annual “Local Color” also features local emerging artists.
Most often, we picture emerging artists as sparky and sophisticated art school grads bursting with energy and ego. However, the emerging artist in Maine has often taken up painting as a second career, so his or her work is informed by patience, calm passion, a desire for refinement (as opposed to sophistication) and a more developed sense of professionalism.
The five artists in “Local Color” fall more into this second camp.
Scouting the work of emerging artists can be particularly fun: Who has the stuff? Who doesn’t? Who is going to make it to the next level?
One artist I wouldn’t vote off the island is Rick Green. His topographical encaustics are among my favorite work in the entire gallery, despite being the least expensive. They have thick, glossy-topped surfaces looking down aerially (maplike) on the Maine coast.
In addition to the delicious mineral pigments flowing through the depth of the encaustic (wax-based paint), Green achieves unusually luscious encaustic surfaces — particularly in his “Headland,” “Cove Island” and “Coastal Series No. 15.”
Green’s “Headland” is a straight-down, map-style topographical view of a coastal Maine peninsula. The land tones range from warm ochre to deeply rich fir-green. The ocean shifts from dark midnight blue to frothing whites on the coastal edges. While the composition is satisfying, Green’s surfaces are incredible: glossy, soft and deep.
Green often presses his pigments to the point of breaking so their actual mineral qualities undergo the same physical changes as their subjects. He’s not just replicating aesthetics, but the actual physics of the landscape and sea.
Green’s more experimental works betray his emerging sensibility. “Pemaquid Point,” for example, feels too simplistically literal next to the luscious depth and detail of his topographical works.
Karen Dominguez’s entries are not nearly so successful. She has one excellent painting — “Crows on Snow” — in which two encaustic crows bow to bold red berries on a wax field of white. Unfortunately, none of her other works achieve this level of quality.
Sally Loughridge’s oils are mixed in quality, but her pastels are quite strong. Her “Monhegan Red” is a tiny thing, but it glows — the peering edge of a sunset past a barn as witnessed by a threadbare (but proud) fir tree.
Prentiss Weiss reminds us that painting in a well-known mode raises the bar. Despite some handsome passages, Weiss doesn’t succeed in pulling them all together except in his charming “Merrymeeting Bay,” which spreads out over an otherwise sleepy tidal marsh and rides the flickering wisps of some open-water grasses up and away.
Kevin Mizner is probably the best match for Bayview, even though his struggles are still apparent in some works. His ambitious “Blue Hill,” for example, has a few terrific passages but fails because he doesn’t pull together the awkwardly varied styles and textures throughout the painting.
Mizner’s “Whitefield Farm,” on the other hand, is terrific because he synchronizes the separate parts of the painting. Topped by a distant farm, a gentle green meadow swoops comfortably across the foreground. Above the idyllic scene are dramatically roiling storm clouds, but these parts are nicely mediated by a band of smooth blue sky that brings the piece together.
The most intriguing painting in the show is Mizner’s nicely painted interior, “Mirror, Mirror.” It shows an art nouveau mirror reflecting a twin mirror across a bedroom and past a recumbent figure in bed. The reflections reveal how half the room basks in warm light, while the other side is cool.
This play of contrasts is brilliantly handled within the mirrors, and is not one bit overplayed. I hope Mizner continues in this direction.
In general, Bayview is less about shows than about presenting large numbers of works by gallery artists, so at any given time there are dozens of paintings on display. Although I don’t like all the work, I do enjoy traditional Maine landscapes, and Bayview has these in spades.
This a great kind of gallery for families or classes — a low-barrier venue filled with accessible paintings. There is a lot to see, and the art is the most familiar type produced and sold by professional Maine artists.
Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at: