Conversations Across Time: Early Work

Seeing chives greening up and buds getting ready to leaf out has me thinking about past springs, when I first came to Maine, and that spring after I moved from Belfast to Lincolnville. Time -- as they say -- marches on, and since it's been more than 30 years that I first walked Lincolnville Beach and really doubled down on painting, I've decided to devote this newsletter to a look at where I was back then, as well as what I think about now when I start a new painting.

Owls Head 5, photo and paper collage on mat board, 8 x 10 inches

Owls Head 5, photo and paper collage on mat board, 8 x 10 inches

In my first years in Maine, I did a lot of hiking and a lot of photographing. According to the maxim "Go where you're thrown and dig in deep," I wanted to learn as much as I could about this new landscape to which I seemed to be arriving home. By 1997, I was living here year-round and had enough installations and photographs accumulated that I could combine bits of each in collages that said something about a particular place and time.

Text has always played a major role in my installations. In those early days, I was fascinated by the calligraphy of rock formations. I filled long rolls of paper with paint marks and texts from my hiking journals. The papers I used in the collage above came from an installation of drawings at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, variously reviewed as "flyby art" and "read the landscapes on the wall." I reconfigured the drawings for "Reading the Landscape" at the University of Maine/Farmington, and much later recycled some of them as collage materials.

Hills 9, watercolo r,  7.5 x 9.5 inches

Hills 9, watercolor, 7.5 x 9.5 inches

These imagined hills date from 1994, though if you look closely you'll see that six years later, I added a signature along the ridge lines. Is that an early selfie, or a recognition of the existential task of creating a painting? I think as artists we're meant to enjoy the experience of creating. If the rock stays balanced at the top of the hill, the painting is finished. If not - well then, like Sisyphus, we have to start again.

Barrens #10 , acrylic, charcoal, pastel, 10 x 14.5 inches. $500.

Barrens #10, acrylic, charcoal, pastel, 10 x 14.5 inches. $500.

On my way to and from Hancock and Washington Counties where I used to hike, I'd pass blueberry barrens. I always felt there was something there that I needed to paint, something more than the rock piles, but never could quite put my finger on it until I came to Maine in October 1994. And then, quite suddenly, I knew. The stunning color of the barrens pulled it all together and I spent my time on that trip up near Stockton Springs. Against the red of the blueberries, the gold birch leaves trembled like coins in the wind, and the clusters of stones were in conversation with each other.

Sign up for my newsletter to receive monthly reports on my painting and habitat restoration projects. Link at the bottom of every webpage. Full newsletter is here.

My YIMBY Project: Habitat and Painting Practice

Here in Lincolnville, the back field’s been mowed and the front meadows await their turn, awash in goldenrod and asters. It’s a visual confusion of color and texture that provides habitat and opportunity for new paintings.

back-field.JPG

I'm not much of a gardener in the traditional sense, so this time of year, the meadows and stream banks between my house and the road are overrun with fading goldenrod and still-blooming asters. It's a visual confusion of color and texture that provides food and shelter for many small mammals, birds, and butterflies, both local and migratory. I'll leave the center meadows unmowed for a while longer. But the back field's been bush-hogged, and it's possible to walk to the far property line to check out the low bush blueberry patch and bayberry shrubs that grow there.

As I walk, I daydream. I envision a path around the perimeter, with stopping points. Just behind the house, two boulders sit one on top of the other. They came out of the rain garden when it was dug. The blueberry patch near the back west corner of my property is a secluded place that exudes a particular energy. Along the northwest line, a single tamarack rises against the sky. Returning in the opposite direction to the front meadows, the habitat changes. Pine, spruce and cedar are followed by red oak, already massive, and red maples resprout from trees long gone. Across the orchard, and on up toward the lower southwest side below a seasonal waterfall, a grey dogwood has tripled in size over the years I've been here.

A few years ago, when I was developing materials for a class in drawing the landscape, Kristen Lindquist was kind enough to offer her impressions of this place.  She wrote that it is "a natural oasis humming with life and beauty—beyond dragonflies poised on pondside cattails, the perfection of floating water lilies, goldfinch’s chatter, vireo’s endless warbling, waving constellations of Queen Anne’s Lace, scent of sun-soaked sweet fern, and that distant glimpse of the sea— [we] fully understand the underlying structure, geology, and essential personality of a place. By opening our creative selves to connect, through images and words, with the larger, unified world around us, we can inhabit our dual roles as both creators and caretakers."

So here's my plan. As I maintain this habitat for wildlife, I want to make it easier for visitors to enjoy walking. I want to provide a Maine version of Japanese forest-bathing.

For as much as this landscape gives me, in subject matter and inspiration for paintings, I will give back to it, preserving it as habitat and ensuring that the annual succession from swelling buds and March mud, to fall bay and winterberry, to Christmas balsam and spruce, continue on.

This blog was originally published in my newsletter. More text and images here.

In the News

The Litchfield County Times has posted a review of Susan Finnegan's and my collaborative work at the Washington Art Association. Read more . . . .

In an article on Vasari 21, Ann Landi proves that "Blooms, posies, blossom, and gardens will never go out of style." Two of my botanical paintings are included in the mix. Read more . . . .  

"Artist Dudley Zopp finds inspiration from trees in own backyard" - read Kay Stephens' interview in the PenBay Pilot

Book Exhibitions

My recent artist's book, Is There Something We Can Do, is part of the exhibition On a Different Wavelength: A Celebration of Color in Books, at the Bowdoin College Library Special Collections and Archives Department. While there, I'm in the company of Isaac Newton and Vladimir Nabokov. The book is also in the collections of the Margaret I. King Library at the University of Kentucky, and the Robert B. Haas Arts Library at Yale University.

An earlier book, A Butterfly Careless, will be exhibited in The Printed Page III, as part of Moprint in Denver, through April 2018. I'm indebted to Alicia Baily at Abecedarian Books for this opportunity.

book_open.jpg