Glenn Renell and Joseph Nicoletti have been friends since the early 1980s.

Renell was teaching at Maine College of Art, and recruited Nicoletti to come on board to teach a drawing class down the hall. They didn’t know each other at all, but they became fast friends.

This month, the two painters show their work together at Greenhut Galleries in Portland. “Northeast X Southwest” features work that both men completed while painting at each other’s homes. Renell, a Maine native, now lives in Arizona. Nicoletti, born in Italy, lives in South Portland.

The work in the show – landscape paintings with soft palettes and realistic views – includes paintings completed during the past year while the pair traveled back and forth across the country.

The exhibition is as much about their friendship as it is about the commonalities and contrasts in their approach to, and execution of, their paintings.

“We would go out on site to the same place and paint,” said Renell, who left Maine for Arizona in 2001. “Our work is similar, but when you see it together, you notice the differences too. Some particular paintings are of the exact same subject.

“A couple of the (South Portland) oil tanks are an example. We were looking at the same thing in the same direction. I focused on the sky. His focus was on the space between the tanks. Photos might look alike, but with the painting process, what you don’t put in there is more important than what you do.”

Nicoletti appreciates having a friend to bounce ideas off. Artists are notoriously private, but they sometimes open up among kindred spirits.

“At a certain point, you can’t see your own work anymore,” Nicoletti said. “There are moments when you think, ‘This is going good, I like this.’ And then you lose it. So you need an outside opinion of someone you respect and who will tell you the truth, to give you a sharper sense of what’s going on. Glenn is someone I rely on. I admire him as an artist.”

Nicoletti’s career is varied. He is adept at painting landscapes, still lifes and figures. Going to Arizona has expanded his painterly horizon in literal and figurative senses. It is so different from Maine, it forces him out of his routines and habits.

“It’s about as different Maine as you can get,” he said, noting the expansive horizon and soft colors. “I love the landscape out there. It’s totally different, and it gets me excited.”

Nicoletti came to Maine in 1972 for a teaching position at Bowdoin College. He began lecturing at Bates in 1981, and remains there today. Renell taught painting, drawing and design at Maine College of Art for 22 years. He left that position to concentrate on painting full time.

“It was time to see if I could be a painter,” Renell said. “I had to focus on painting and not try to be a teacher too. I must say, being a full-time painter is a real treat.”

It helps when you have friends with whom you can share the experience.

“I am pretty isolated out in the middle of nowhere. There are no other artists out there,” he said. “So when Joe comes out, it’s a real treat. We’re just two people coming together, working similarly but different.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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