PORT CLYDE – Watercolor painter Barbara Ernst Prey has made a career painting Maine. She depicts the coast of Maine, and specifically the tiny communities along St. George peninsula where she lives and operates her summer gallery, in sweeping paintings that are full of color and light.

Her paintings are in the Brooklyn Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. They have been seen in European capitals, and hung in the White House.

This summer, visitors to her annual summer exhibition at Blue Water Fine Arts in Port Clyde will detect a hint of Asia. Prey has titled her show “East Meets West.”

It’s a nod to the unlikely influence of Eastern painting in Prey’s work. The first painting that visitors see when they enter the gallery is a view of an Asian temple, which Prey painting while studying in Taiwan in 1986.

She dedicates the show to S. Lane Faison, her mentor at Williams College. Through his teaching and influence, Prey was able to land both a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, enabling her to study and work in Asia as a young woman, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship.

She spent a year in Taiwan teaching Western art, and she traveled extensively. She worked with Chinese masters, who taught her to “see through” her subject to find its inner or spiritual core.

The temple painting is the only work from that period that Prey includes in this show, but it is emblematic of the Asian influence in her work today. “Going back to the drawings I did on site, I saw a connection with how I am looking at things today,” she said.

To make her point, she cited the signature work from the summer show, “The Meeting House.” It is an interior view of a traditional New England meeting house, with worn, numbered pews marking the reserved seats of longtime members. The painting takes a long view of the meeting house, looking down the floor boards, past the pews to a pair of windows that open to the outside, tree-laden world.

While specific in its subject, the painting asks vague questions and suggests a sense of place. One can imagine the events that have occurred here over the years, the emotions of the congregation, the history the building has seen.

“This painting embodies a lot of what I’m looking at and what I’m looking for. It’s about getting to the spiritual core of a place. It’s about the story of who was here, who built it and who has passed through on their life’s journey,” she said. “I am drawn to the sense of place and the spirituality of the old meeting house and what it represents in our culture. They’re majestic on their own architecturally, but they’re so much more.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes