Marcie Jan Bronstein’s “The Force of Friendship,” 20-by 16. Courtesy of Zillman Art Museum

After completing a productive residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in upstate New York, the artist Marcie Jan Bronstein shared the news in a letter to friends. Among those receiving her dispatch was George Kinghorn, executive director and curator of the newly named Zillman Art Museum in downtown Bangor, formerly known at the University of Maine Museum of Art.

Kinghorn liked the watercolors that Bronstein made in New York and asked for a studio visit, so he could see them in person. Almost two years later, Bronstein’s work is on view in the exhibition “Being Here,” the first solo museum show for the Belfast painter, photographer and writer.

Bronstein mixes ovals and oblong shapes with vibrant colors to create environments within her work that invite people in to explore, as if passing from one physical space into another. With some of her work, she achieves this by creating portals in her paintings – by leaving part of her paper free of paint to create a dominant negative space – that serve as doors or windows. In others, she uses sharp-edged shapes that force and thrust their way toward the top of the paper.

The centerpiece is a grid of nine related works, called “Oasis,” each painted in soft colors and each with flowing shapes. Kinghorn describes them as resembling transparent drapery, held back with ropes and swags. “Seen as a unit or as individual panels, the calming monochromatic colors employed in ‘Oasis’ — ranging from pale blues, lavender, and buttery yellow — invite multiple interpretations for viewers,” he notes in a catalog that accompanies the exhibition.

Her paintings are relatively small. Most are 20 by 16 inches, but Bronstein fills her surfaces with energy and activity. She sees these paintings as providing calm during stormy times. “I don’t throw paint around,” she said. “I want a sense of sanctuary with my work. I am painting spaces that are inviting and peaceful.”

“Being Here” by Marcie Jan Bronstein, on view through Dec. 23 at the Zillman Art Museum, University of Maine, 40 Harlow St., Bangor; free.

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