Henry Isaacs, “Fishtail Mountain, over Pokhara, Nepal,” oil on linen. Images courtesy of Gleason Fine Art

BOOTHBAY HARBOR – Henry Isaacs is going back to Nepal, but before he departs, he’s showing paintings from his first trip to the Himalayas earlier this year.

Isaacs, a Portland painter with a worsening neurological condition, spent several weeks in the mountains around Mount Everest this past spring, sketching views of the world’s tallest peak in preparation for a painting commissioned by a client from Vermont. He is showing many of those sketches, which he refers to as “travel notes,” as well as several large finished paintings in the exhibition “Moving Pictures” at Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor.

The show also includes paintings from Maine and California. It’s up through Nov. 1.

Henry Isaacs, “Ganesh Mountain, Eastern Himalayas, Nuwakot, Nepal,” oil linen.

After Isaacs returned to Portland from Nepal in the spring, he got an offer to go again, this time from a Maine client who requested a painting of Ama Dablam, another tall peak in the Himalayan range of personal importance to the Maine client. Isaacs, 68, plans to depart in late October. As he did in the spring, he will travel with his wife, Donna.

And as was the case before his spring trip, he sought and received the blessings of his medical team before committing to the journey. Doctors believe he is afflicted with a condition related to multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. He began feeling symptoms of disorientation and dizziness last fall, and has struggled with a lack of energy and mobility since. He is being treated by the neurology department at Maine Medical Center.

On his first trip to the Himalayas, he brought along his wheelchair and reached about 11,000 feet. When he returns this fall, he plans to avail himself of a burro and work his way up to 16,000 feet. He and Donna will depart Portland the third week of October.

Henry Isaacs, “Lake at Pokhara, Nepal,” oil on board.

“We’re going little by little so I don’t get too sick. I am aiming for the base camp of Ama Dablam by Nov. 4,” he said. “And I am feeling empowered. My neurologist said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am going to fix you up and we will get you to 16,000 feet.’ I like these guys who say, ‘You are going to Nepal.’ That’s the best thing in the world.”

The couple will travel with the help of a Nepali climber of Tibetan heritage named Phunjo Lama, a leading female climber and a friend of the Maine client who commissioned the Ama Dablam painting. The client introduced the painter and the climber, who have become friends. “She’s an extraordinary climber, and also a trekker and at times a mountain rescuer,” Isaacs said. “Phunjo will be helping Donna and me on our project in the mountains near Ama Dablam.”

His art will do double duty. Isaacs made a series of prints from his first round of Nepali paintings and is selling them on his Etsy shop to raise money to support Lama and her work advocating for gender equity among climbers in the Himalayas.

Isaacs is showing about 30 new paintings at Gleason, half of those from his first trip to the Everest region. Among those are several large canvases and midsize paintings, and many small sketches, or notes.

Isaacs is a colorist above all, and these paintings capture the energy of the colors at play in the mountains, with the sun hitting the mountain slopes and casting deep shadows of purple, while illuminating splashes of green, pockets of red and long, hopeful streaks of yellow. The brush strokes are sharp and firm, matching the rigid edge of the jagged mountains.

Henry Isaacs, “Chukhung Valley, Nepal, oil on linen.”

“The big surprise was the energy that Henry drew from the whole experience,” said the gallery co-owner, Dennis Gleason. “That energy is reflected in the paintings – in the strength of color, the movement of the brush, and the confidence and immediacy he was able to pull forth.”

When he returns to the Himalayas, Isaacs will search mostly for color and light – the same things he’s interested in when painting in Maine. Physical conditions aside, the challenge of a new environment is learning when and where to look, and how to respond. He plans to spend several weeks at the base camp at Ama Dablam, acclimating to the elevation and climate, and adapting to the light.

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