Rachael Eastman always felt out of the loop when the subject of hallowed Maine painting grounds came up.
Monhegan? She’d heard of it, but never been.
Ditto Deer Isle, Great Cranberry, the Bold Coast, Eastport and just about anywhere else Down East.
“I’ve been living in Maine my whole life and had heard of those exotic locales,” she said. “But I’ve never seen half the coast.”
That changed last summer, when Eastman landed the coveted Pace House Residency in Stonington, administered by Maine College of Art.
The residency provided her the opportunity to live for three weeks in July in the former home of late Maine painter Stephen Pace. She had time to focus on her work, to fall into the rhythm of a creative mode morning to night, and to benefit from a specific point of reference — that elusive sense of place — that stamps an artist’s work.
Aucocisco Galleries in Portland will show Eastman’s Stonington work in early May as part of its series of continuing mini-exhibitions, “Double Dozen.” The spring-long exhibition encompasses a series of three-day, two-person shows.
Gallery owner Andres Verzosa intended a dozen mini-shows, but added an additional pair of artists, so the series now includes 13 pairs — a baker’s dozen.
Each show opens on Thursday and closes on Saturday, creating a three-day blitz of energy. It’s a lot of work for Verzosa to hang a new show evert week. Most gallery shows in Portland are up for a month at a time.
Verzosa broke the mold because he wanted to hang a lot of work by a lot of artists, who also happen to be his friends. With only an exception or two, none of them is a regular Aucocisco artist. He brought them together because he likes all of them on a personal level, and wanted to connect them through their work and friendships.
“These are all folks that people should pay attention to and who I value very highly,” he said. “They’ve all been Steady Eddies in my life, and they’re all dedicated in their practices and serious about their art.
“I just felt as a gallery owner that I could not in good conscious look these folks in the eye and say, ‘I love your work, but I’m sorry I’ve never shown it.’ I feel a personal obligation to affirm and acknowledge these folks.”
A quick, short show can be a lot of fun, Eastman said. “It’s very exciting, and these weekly openings are a great catalyst for bringing people together. We’re all excited to see each other’s work.”
Eastman is thrilled to pair with Richard Brown Lethem, a fellow York County artist. He lives in Berwick, not far from where Eastman grew up in Eliot. She now lives in Old Orchard Beach.
This week, the gallery will show work by Kimberly Crichton and Nancy Wagner. On April 25-27, it will be Patrick Plourde and Marilyn Blinkhorn.
Verzosa paired the artists because of their friendships, the similarity of their work or materials, or because he just thought they’d play well together. Some of the pairs of artists live together, and others are married, like Scott Nash and Nancy Gibson Nash of Peaks Island, who will show June 6-8.
Thursday’s opening with Crichton and Wagner is the third in the series. The first two have been fun gatherings, with lots of laughter and conversation.
Eastman knows what she’ll talk about when her show with Lethem opens in two weeks: Stonington and Pace House Residency.
“It was perfect,” she effused. “It was 78 degrees the entire time. I came away with an incredible empathy for place. It’s the first time I’ve been able to totally immerse myself in an environment like that and just create. That sense of place is so critical to the work.”
Among the dozen paintings she plans to show, half are from Stonington. “It was the most productive time I’ve had in five years,” she said.
Eastman spent most mornings observing, the afternoons processing her discoveries, and the evenings painting until all hours.
“I had a heightened sense of being given time and space, and used both,” she said.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: