Eric Hopkins, a painter known for his aerial views of the islands and ocean, will talk about his commitment to preserving public access to the Maine landscape when he greets visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Ocean House Gallery in Cape Elizabeth. The gallery will host a one-day exhibition of Hopkins’ paintings, including the painting “Casco Bay from the Back Cove to the Cape,” that will be auctioned later this summer to benefit the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust.

The painter Eric Hopkins stands with one of his paintings. He will talk about his support of land trusts from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in Cape Elizabeth. Photo by Matt Cosby

Hopkins has a 40-year history of working with land trusts across Maine. In addition to the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, he has donated art to the Georges River Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, among others. Growing up on an island in Maine, Hopkins said he’s always had faith in the land beneath his feet. “We trust the land for all we do,” he said. “The question is, does the land trust us?”

He traces his faith in terra firma to the moon landing 50 years ago. He was 18 when Apollo 11 carried astronauts to the moon. Growing up on North Haven, an island off the Maine coast, he couldn’t fathom the idea of such exploration. “It was totally flabbergasting, just the thought of it. It seemed so hard to get from North Haven to Vinalhaven a quarter-mile away. To get to the moon was impossible,” he said.

When he saw the photo of the earth from space, taken by the astronauts of Apollo 11, the scope of his world and direction of his life shifted. “That was a key point. I grew up on this island and had this sense of place. Being on an island, I could walk straight in any direction and eventually come to the water and probably know where I was. I had a sense of place, a sense of land, a sense of water and a sense of space. It all made sense to me,” he said.

Space and the prospect of travel changed everything.

Hopkins steadily expanded his view of his own little world, as well as the larger world that pushed at the borders of his imagination. He completed an Outward Bound program at Hurricane Island and eventually began flying small airplanes. Outward Bound gave him access to remarkable places, and from the air, Hopkins could see the impact of development on Maine islands, the coast and other tracts of land. Large parcels of what had been undeveloped forest and open spaces were being consumed, he said.

That’s when he became a committed supporter of land trusts. By donating his art for auction, he helps land trusts raise money to ensure public access to the land, he said.

After its display at Ocean House Gallery in Cape Elizabeth on Saturday, Hopkins’ painting “Casco Bay from Back Cove to the Cape” will head back up the coast, where Thomaston Place Auction Galleries will offer it to the highest bidder, Aug. 23-25.

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