A painting by Bowdoinham artist David Mann, who at age 72 will exhibit his work for the first time. Courtesy of Merrymeeting Arts Center

BOWDOINHAM – David Mann has been creating art for decades, but he’s still a bit uncomfortable calling himself an artist.

He may need to relent after this week.

At age 72, Mann will exhibit his paintings for the first time, beginning Friday and through mid-June at the Merrymeeting Arts Center in Bowdoinham. The gallery is open on Saturdays and by appointment. The exhibit, titled “The Turning Point,” features a dozen acrylic-on-canvas paintings and one sculpture. The paintings are abstract, filled with vibrant colors and methodically planned geometric shapes and patterns that allow viewers to interpret the compositions however they wish.

“It’s a little strange, yes,” Mann said about the prospect of showing his work to a broad audience. “But I had no entry into galleries. I wasn’t a known quantity.”

Mark Dube, board chairman for the Merrymeeting Arts Center who also oversees gallery exhibits, said Mann is far too modest about his ability.

“The first time we sat down to talk and I saw his paintings, I said, ‘This is a show that’s waiting to be seen. Where have you been hiding?’ ” Dube said.


Bowdoinham artist David Mann in his home studio. Photo courtesy of David Mann

Although he doesn’t have any educational background in art, Mann said it was the thing he most looked forward to in school. He grew up in Michigan and spent many of his young adult years in the screen-printing business, which included graphic artwork.

Not long after his son was born, Mann and his wife, who is also from the Midwest, decided they wanted a change of scenery. A friend suggested Maine, and before long, the young family moved to Bowdoinham. That was 32 years ago.

Mann didn’t know it at the time, but Bowdoinham had a small-yet-robust artist community, led by Bryce Muir, Carlo Pittore and Carter Smith. The Merrymeeting Arts Center was inspired by Muir’s work and his commitment to building and promoting the arts community.

Mann got to know both Muir, who was best known for his animated wooden portraits and mythic sculptures, and Pittore, a prolific artist known for his portraits who had moved to Bowdoinham from New York City in the 1980s. Pittore founded an artist academy in the small Sagadahoc County town and also hosted drawing classes weekly. Mann, a stay-at-home dad at that point, was among the regular attendees.

From there, he started with water colors and landscapes, but realized it wasn’t for him. There were too many landscape artists already. Instead, he graduated to acrylic paints and his work became more abstract.

Another painting by Bowdoinham artist David Mann that will be part of an exhibit at the Merrymeeting Arts Center. Courtesy of Merrymeeting Arts Center

“I wanted to find something that was genuinely my own,” he said.


Still, few people outside his family and friends ever saw his pieces.

“David was sort of working in the shadow of these other well-known artists,” Dube said. “There are going to be people in town who know him and have no idea.”

Mann’s work is methodical. He converted his now-grown son’s bedroom into a studio but admitted it’s an environment that likely only works for him. He sketches each piece out with colored pencils and then works from those sketches. Mann doesn’t use an easel and instead prefers to lay the canvas flat and paint from above. He also frequently rotates the canvas as he’s working, which means that when each piece is done, it can be viewed no matter how it’s hung.

In fact, for the upcoming exhibit, Mann even fashioned a mechanism for each painting that allows them to be rotated, 90 degrees at a time, so they can be viewed four different ways.

Dube said although Bowdoinham has changed and grown over the last several decades, the town still has a strong contingent of creatives.

“You can’t throw a paintbrush without hitting an artist,” he said.

Once the exhibit is live, Mann will take his place among them, officially.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: