South Portland artist M.J. Benson is showing her abstract oil paintings through Dec. 31 at the State House in Augusta as part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Art in the Capitol program. Free, self-guided tours of the paintings are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The paintings at the State House are Benson’s latest large-scale landscapes, “my response to the tumultuous past few months of life,” she said in a press release.

M.J. Benson of South Portland is showing her paintings in the State House through Dec. 31. Courtesy of Maine Arts Commission

Benson’s paintings reflect winds of change, with sweeping colorful swirls of paint, thickly applied, set against swiftly shifting horizon lines. If these are storm clouds on the horizon, it’s hard to know what they hold, but it’s time to hunker down. Or might that be sunlight breaking through, with better days ahead?

Benson has lived in Maine since 2006. With a bachelor’s degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University and a master’s in education from Harvard, she discovered her love of painting at Maine College of Art + Design and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. She received Maine Arts Commission project grants in 2007 and 2021.

In the press release, Benson described the Maine landscape as her muse. “The effect of living on the coast, walking by the ocean, swimming in it, sailing on it, and experiencing the ever-changing relationships of the sky, earth and sea, factors in every painting I make,” she said.


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