In her obituary from February 2009, it was said of Marilyn Carr that she could not remember a time in her life when she hadn’t wanted to be an artist.

She began drawing as a youngster and painted until weeks before her death after a long battle with ovarian cancer.

Evidence of Carr’s interest in the arts and the prolific nature of her output as a painter are on display this summer in a small and unusually personal exhibition at the Bustins Island Historical Society.

Bustins, a small island off Freeport, was Carr’s beloved summer home, and the exhibition, “Marilynscapes: The Art of Marilyn Carr,” chronicles her life and interest in the arts.

The show, which is on view through August, warrants attention because it tells the story of her life with a relatively small number of drawings, paintings, prints and other ephemera.

Visitors see some of the earliest images of horses and dogs that Carr executed as a child, when she began developing her hand as an artist as well as her ability to discern details. Unfinished and still resting on the easel where she left it when she died is her final painting of wild irises among the rocks at Schoodic Point.

Carr was a lifelong teacher, and visitors to the exhibition can also see her lesson plans, sketchbooks and other things that she used in the classroom to open up the imaginations of her students.

“This show tells the story of her life,” said her husband, F. Benjamin Carr, who curated the exhibition. “It shows the changes in her art over the years, but more important than that, it says a lot about the woman who made the work. She was a wonderful spirit.”

Bustins was her anchor to the wind, always.

Her family began coming here in the 1940s, when she was in her early teens. And although she lived many places and traveled widely, she always came home to Bustins.

A small island in Casco Bay, Bustins is home to 115 summer cottages. It’s a tight-knit community with a sharp independent streak. Although governed by Freeport, Bustins has its own village corporation. The island also has its own boat, the Lilly B, which operates from the town landing in Freeport.

A round-trip ticket costs $15, and it’s well worth the modest investment to come out to Bustins. The Lilly B has several departures daily, making it convenient to visit for a couple of hours to see the show and soak up the sights and sounds of the island.

There are no public amenities on the island, and it is not set up to handle boats full of tourists. But the historical society is a very short walk from the ferry dock, right next to the post office, and visitors are welcome.

It’s worth noting too, given the nature of the island, that the gallery has a new lighting system, installed last spring by Assured Solar Energy of North Yarmouth. This is the first exhibition that utilizes the power of the sun to light the gallery.

Carr focused much of her attention on Maine’s natural environment, although she and her husband spent their winters on the island of Nevis, in the Caribbean. The show includes several images from her time down there.

It’s interesting to watch the evolution of her work, not only from those early paintings of horses and dogs from her teen years, but also as an adult. Her early mature work is characterized by realistic images of boats and harbors. We see a dragger docked at a wharf in Portland, a Fourth of July celebration in Rockport, a fishing boat pulled out of water for repairs.

In her later years, Carr gravitated toward painting vibrant, large-scale images of shells, rocks and flowers. Whereas the early work was sometimes muted and loose, her late-career paintings are full of color and detail.

Carr was serious about her work. She studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York and the Philadelphia College of Art, and graduated from the University of Maine, Machias. She worked as a fashion illustrator, an interior designer and an art teacher.

Up the coast, she taught in the Cherryfield and Columbia Falls elementary schools in the mid-1970s, and then became the first full-time art teacher in the public school systems of Washington County when she was hired as a kindergarten through 12th-grade art teacher in Machias. Later, she taught art at Massabesic Junior High School in Waterboro.

The exhibition follows the trajectory of her life and career in a way that both honors her accomplishments and celebrates her skills.

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

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: