Three years ago, the artist Ellen Golden and her husband, artist and gallery owner Duane Paluska, attended an exhibition at the Maine Jewish Museum and began a conversation with curator Nancy Davidson, who invited them to show their work together sometime soon at the museum in Portland.

They said yes, but Paluska died early in 2020 at age 83. The exhibition they imagined, “Dialogue: Duane Paluska and Ellen Golden,” opens Thursday and will remain on view until Jan. 3. There’s a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, and another for the First Friday Art Walk on Dec. 3.

The married couple did show their work together, in 2019, at Icon Contemporary Art in Brunswick, which Paluska owned and where both artists kept their studios. That show was so successful and so revealing, Golden was eager to exhibit their work together again, and contacted Davidson to say she would like to proceed with an exhibition at the museum.

“I was surprised when I saw our work together and saw how the pieces really spoke to each other. We were both surprised to see that. It was more of a connection than we had imagined,” said Golden of Woolwich. “I thought it was interesting because we worked quite independently, even though we had studios in the same building.”

“Dialogue” explores those connections and conversations.

Duane Paluska, untitled, acrylic on canvas on board. Courtesy of Ellen Golden

Davidson picked out sculptures and wall reliefs, or three-dimensional paintings, by Paluska, some of which he worked on until the day before he died and earlier pieces. All of Golden’s work is recent, and most are small, colorful ink drawings on paper that evolved from a pandemic-inspired virtual drawing show that involved postcard-sized pieces.


“I have fallen in love with working small,” said Golden, who is accustomed to drawing at a much larger scale. “They have quite a lot of power for being so small, and I am not sure I can say why. Maybe if you look at them you can tell me why.”

The abstract drawings are full of energy and magnetism, with intense, pointillistic blocks of colors, which Golden applies with a brush. As precise as they are, they also somehow feel loose and flowing.

“There is something about them being constrained or contained at that scale that makes them, for me, interesting and fun to work with, and it will be interesting to see how far I can go with them,” Golden said. “I am excited to get them out into the public.”

Paluska worked in wood, making non-representational pieces that resemble furniture and are all about a minimalist aesthetic and beauty, with humor. His wall hangings are geometric painted wooden and canvas surfaces. “He called them wall reliefs. He was reluctant to call them paintings,” Golden said. “He liked the fact that they had a certain three-dimensional quality, and he was always careful to paint the edges.”

Icon closed with Paluska’s death, and the building was sold a year ago. The gallery had a positive impact on the lives of many artists and the Maine art scene “and was a positive force for us in our personal and professional lives,” Golden said.

Duane Paluska and Ellen Golden at their show at Icon Contemporary Art in 2019. Photo by Dan Kany, courtesy of Ellen Golden

She is curious how their work looks together at the Jewish museum, and remains grateful for their exhibition at Icon in 2019.

“It was exciting from a personal and professional aesthetic to see our work together, and we both enjoyed it a lot. In hindsight, it should not have been so surprising – we were together over 40 years,” Golden said. “This show will be different because this is all work that I have made since he died. Although Duane was really very respectful of separating his studio from mine to the point he would knock before he would come into the studio – which always made me laugh, but I appreciated – he was also helpful as a sounding board. I am missing having that, quite a lot.”

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