It was the perfect winter’s night this past Wednesday. Stormy, but not too. Heaps of snow weighed down majestic pines, and in the city, Congress Square, still sporting its holiday finest, was colorful and almost quiet. Streams of people, all bundled up, made their way into Portland Museum of Art to attend the members opening of “Lois Dodd: Catching the Light,” where a different world of color awaited.

“I have seen lots of Lois’ paintings,” said Karin Thomas of Camden, who made the trek down to Portland for this opening in less than ideal travel conditions, “but nothing like this. It’s so comprehensive.”

Dodd’s career as an American painter is impressive, spanning 60 years. This retrospective features paintings that capture important places and moments in the artist’s life, including views from her apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City, and the woods and gardens of midcoast Maine.

“It’s a beautiful show,” agreed Dudley Zopp of Lincolnville, who made the drive with Thomas. They called themselves groupies of Dodd for their dedication to and admiration of the artist.

“I like her,” said Phyllis MacIsaac of Peak’s Island, sharing a sentiment that echoed throughout the evening. “She’s a very independent woman, and she’s really outspoken. I admire that. And I love her paintings. They’re very angular, and the windows…I love the way you feel like you are looking out of them.”

“She calls this her ‘tromp l’oeil,’ or trick of the eye,” explained Barbara Hoppin, also of Peaks Island, divulging a little insight she picked up while attending the artist’s lecture held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay before this evening’s opening.

“She seems to paint what she sees,” said museum member Aletha Dunn of Portland, clearly in awe of Dodd’s work. Dunn also attended the artist’s lecture with her husband Jim Dunn.

“I love the way she uses color. I really enjoy the reds,” said Beth Sanders of Great Diamond Island, commenting on a small but striking painting that caught her eye titled, “Red Curtains, Green Chicken House.”

Stacy Rodenberger, assistant director of student and teacher learning at the Portland Museum of Art, made an association between Lois Dodd and the work of Winslow Homer, whose exhibit recently closed.

“They dovetail really nicely together,” she explained, reflecting on their similar approaches to art. “The way Lois talks about painting her immediate environment, it’s an intense observation of the natural world. They have very different painting styles, but similar themes and ideas…it’s exciting to see a contemporary woman artist in contrast to an American art tradition lead by Homer.”

Consider that for a moment. To think that such great American art is literally at our doorstep, both with the inspiration of majestic landscape, and finished, revered work.

“We are doing so well,” said museum director Mark Bessire. “Portland is literally emanating energy and we’re reflecting it. We’re fortunate. It’s a continuum of great artists.”

For more information about “Lois Dodd: Catching the Light,” please contact the Portland Museum of Art at 775-6148 or visit www.portlandmuseum.org.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

mlogan@maine.rr.com