There’s a wealth of great art to see in Maine. These five masterpieces represent a quick survey of where we’ve been and where we’re going artistically speaking. They are foundational to understanding the rich story of art in Maine.

Marsden Hartley, (1877–1943), “Still Life with Eel,” ca. 1917, oil on canvas mounted on aluminum, Gift of Mrs. William Carlos Williams, 1967.26 Photo courtesy of Ogunquit Museum of American Art

“Still Life with Eel,” by Marsden Hartley
Ogunquit Museum of American Art,

Though he eventually became bolder about erotic depictions of men, in this 1917 painting – completed on a trip to Bermuda with fellow gay artist Charles Demuth – Lewiston native Hartley employed coded phallic imagery to suggest his sexuality: a banana, an eel, the exaggerated spadix of an anthurium flower. Sumptuously chromatic, it’s an early example of queer art.

John Raimondi’s “Michael” in downtown Portland. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

“Michael,” by John Raimondi
One City Center Plaza, Portland,

In 1974, Maine College of Art alumnus John Raimondi worked with at-risk Portland teenagers to build and install this stunning 7,000-pound welded Corten steel sculpture inspired by the archangel Michael. It’s not only an excellent example of geometric abstraction, but a testament to the transformational potential of art programs in public schools.

Winslow Homer (United States, 1836 – 1910), “Weatherbeaten,” 1894, oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 48 3/8 inches, Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Bequest of Charles Shipman Payson, 1988.55.1. Image courtesy of Luc Demers

“Weatherbeaten,” by Winslow Homer
Portland Museum of Art,


One of Homer’s greatest works (if not one of the finest American landscape paintings of the 19th century), “Weatherbeaten” powerfully captures the fearsome beauty of coastal Maine. Painted in 1894 from his studio at Prouts Neck, the painting allows us to feel the thunderous force of waves slamming against rocks as a squall moves through in the distance.

Mina Loy, Communal Cot, 1949, cut-paper and mixed-media collage mounted on board, 27 1/4 × 46 1/2 in. (69.2 × 118.1 cm). Private collection, Chicago. Photo by Michael Tropea, Chicago/courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

“Communal Cot,” by Mina Loy
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick,

This institution is a treasure. The current retrospective, “Mina Loy: Strangeness Is Inevitable” (through Sept. 17), proves why. Who else would highlight this obscure avant-garde poet, artist and proto-feminist? This 1949 work, made while living on Manhattan’s Bowery, prefigured the use of trash as art material (think Rauschenberg) and ennobled the homeless as subject matter.

Nouf Alhimary, “Untitled,” from “The Desire Not to Exist” series, 2015. Dye-sublimation print, 39 1/2 x 29 1/2 in., Partial gift of the artist, partial Museum purchase, Synergy Fund Diversify the Collections Program, 2019.1.1C and A Photo courtesy of Bates Museum of Art

“Untitled,” The Desire Not to Exist series, by Nouf Alhimary
Bates Museum of Art, Lewiston,

Bates’ Diversify the Collection Program provides resources to acquire artworks from underrepresented cultures and populations. Three impactful large-scale photos by this female Saudi artist, on view through Oct. 7, protest the invisibility and voicelessness of Saudi women due to Western Islamophobia and the rigidity of Eastern religious patriarchies.

Jorge S. Arango is the Portland Press Herald’s art critic.

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