Ellen Daggett’s “Landmark,” her tribute to Bernard Langlais, was still on the easel last week. It will be hanging at Wiley’s Grange in St. George this weekend. Photo courtesy of the artist

ST. GEORGE — Kelly Thorndike, an Iraq war veteran from Maine who is using his skills as an artist to help other veterans process their war-related demons and anxieties, has organized a pop-up exhibition this week at Wiley’s Corner Grange in St. George. “Creative Courage” will be on view from Thursday to Saturday, with a reception from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, and will primarily include paintings and photographs from a dozen artists.

Many of the artists also are veterans, and they worked loosely around a theme of “Red, White and You.”

The exhibition is an outgrowth of Thorndike’s solo exhibition a year ago in Tenants Harbor and his ongoing efforts to work with veterans and encourage them to express themselves through the St. George River-Veterans Art Expedition. He founded the organization a year ago to bring veteran and nonveteran artists together for four-season art adventures along the St. George River watershed in the midcoast, where Thorndike grew up. He lives in Standish now.

Kelly Thorndike, “Cushing Romance.” Image courtesy of Kelly Thorndike

Thorndike will set up an expeditionary tent on the grange grounds, where additional artwork and information about his mission and goals will be available.

“Creative Courage” is a direct result of his efforts to connect artists and veterans across the midcoast and the state. Some are connected by geography, others through their military service. In addition to Thorndike, those showing include: Jim Bazin, Ellen Daggett, Dara Hurt, Deb Donnelly, Chris Polson, Noah Bly, Angie Blevins, Jennifer Jackson, Michael Lord, Paul Bass and Melanie Beckett-Hyatt.

Thorndike, Hurt, Lord, Bazin and Blevens are the veterans in the group.


The grange is a small venue for a dozen artists, but an appropriate home for this show because many of the artists have roots in the area, and much of the work exudes what Thorndike calls “Georges River authenticity.” The art inside the grange will match the character of the grange itself, which was built in 1908 and inspired artists since.

Chris Polson, “Ruffingham Meadows.” Image courtesy of Kelly Thorndike

Many of the artists in this show – Thorndike, Donnelly, Beckett-Hyatt and Daggett – were friends in the 1970s and grew up along the watershed, in the shadows of great American artists like Andrew Wyeth, William Thon and Bernard Langlais and where inspiration came naturally for kids seeking adventure. “We are from the place those artists came to paint and live, this watershed being our terre,” said Thorndike, who will be showing a variety of recent paintings.

Daggett will show several new paintings, inspired by her youth. She lives in North Yarmouth now but grew up just a few houses down from Langlais and “spent many happy hours at the Langlais place when I was young. I rode their pinto paint horse, Cheyenne, for several years all around Cushing. Helen Langlais was my first- and second-grade teacher, and my oldest, longest friendship up until her death.”

Daggett pursued a medical career, becoming a physician’s assistant in 1994, and has maintained an interest in art throughout her life. She attributes that to the enduring influence of the Langlaises – both Bernard and Helen – and the general character of the peninsula.

Blevins knows Thorndike through their military connections and has donated canvases to his project. She served nearly 30 years in the Navy and Army, retiring in 2010. She lives in Hallowell and exhibits at the Harlow Gallery. She paints portraits of fallen soldiers for their families. It’s a private and important part of her art practice. “I contact the families who lose someone and ask if they’d like me to do a portrait of their son or daughter or spouse,” she said. “It’s my way of giving back.” For this show, she will exhibit mostly small abstract paintings inspired by nature, in oil and cold wax, as well as some pastels.

Donnelly will show mixed-media paintings from her latest tree series. She treats the majestic white pine as an almost human form. “The way they respond to time and weathering, they feel very human to me,” she said. “When I draw or paint them, they take on people in my life and I subliminally create portraits.”

“Columbia Wheel” by Dara Hart. Image courtesy of Dara Hurt

Hurt, a photographer from Rockland and an Air Force veteran, is showing several photographs from around the midcoast, inspired by nature and wonder. “As a photographer, my overall goal is just to express the feeling that I get wherever I am. A lot of it is poignancy. A lot of it is stark beauty. But it’s always just me trying to express and share whatever I am feeling.”

Polson, a longtime Maine landscape painter known for his large-scale paintings of Mount Katahdin, will show a variety of paintings and is considering bringing several of his large Katahdin works to hang in the tent. They’re too big for the grange, but they might work well in the tent, he said.

He likes how Thorndike envisions bringing veterans and artists together on art-oriented outdoor expeditions. “If I sell any paintings, I will make a significant donation to Kelly,” he said. “I really believe in what he’s trying to do.”

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