- by Carol Standish
A Fleet of Fine Art and Photography
That most of the State of Maine is drop-dead gorgeous is a casual given for most of us. For the visually sensitive, artists and photographers, it is a constant source of stimulation and inspiration. Down East Books in Camden has been a consistent champion of such artists, publishing the work of McCrea, Silliker, Feil, Ralston, Hubbell and the ongoing series art exposition series by Little and Skolnick among others. Here are a few recent additions for your library of the art of Maine.
The Art of Monhegan Island is the latest in a series of expository work and example by art writer, Carl Little and artist, designer Arnold Skolnick. The team has produced ten books together over the years including The Art of Maine in Winter, Paintings of Maine, Art of Maine Islands and Paintings of New England. The Art of Monhegan Island follows the same format of considering the art subject chronologically, choosing images that typify the dominant styles of the time and accompanying those images with biographical and historical snippets relevant to the artist and his work. Carl Little says that this book was perhaps the most daunting by virtue of the material.
from Down East Books
Monhegan Island has been a mecca for artists since well before the turn of the last century. The chronology includes towering early modernist American painters such George Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Robert Henri and Edward Hopper interspersed with less well known painters of the period like Harry Fenn and Eric Hudson all of whom who visited the island in the 1890s and early 1900s. Contemporary artists include Jamie Wyeth, Connie Hayes, Donald Demers and Ronald Frontin.
As the decades change, artistic styles and sensibilities change but in this book, there is a single consistent subject, Monhegan Island itself. Thus the book suggests comparisons and contrasts rather than any sort of linear progression.
Scattered throughout the text there are quotes from explorers, historians, the visual artists and work by Monhegan poets, evocative of the various aspects of Monhegan which inspire each individual. When you’ve finished leafing through you will absolutely feel as if you have visited.
(The Art of Monhegan Island, 112 pp, 80 color reproductions, $40.)
The century long wrangle about whether photography is art is winding down. Almost all museums have photographs in there collections today. But if you harbor even a smidgeon of doubt, treat yourself to Windjammers, Lighthouses and Other Treasures of the Maine Coast, photography by Frank M. Chillemi. Admittedly, its hard to make a windjammer or a lighthouse look bad but Chillemi is hot-button aware of the effect of light and makes abundant and dramatic use of it. Twenty-one passenger schooners running along the mid-coast of Maine may be the subject of the photograph but the surrounding setting sun, sparkling sea, reflection and shadow, fog or crystal clarity in each image makes this collection truly exceptional.
Chillemi writes, “[p]hotographing from the water is always a challenge. The constantly changing conditions will keep you your toes. The advantage of actually being out there is that you can experience for yourself the grace of these ships under full sail. My two favorite ways of working are from the windjammer itself and from a kayak.” Views from both vantage points are plentiful, not only of the iconic ships but also of the iconic coastal buildings, lighthouses which are also included. “The ships, and especially the lighthouses...are very spiritual creations,” writes the photographer.
Chellimi is a professional photographer who lives in Merrick, New York and visits the Maine coast every summer. He also teaches photography and leads summer workshops on board the schooner, J. & E. Riggin.
(Windjammers, Lighthouses and other Treasures of the Maine Coast, 96 pp, 90 color reproductions, 8 1/2 x 11’ format, $30.)
In At Home in Maine - Houses Designed to Fit the Land, architect Christopher Glass and architectural photographer Brian Vanden Brink team up to admire in words and pictures, some of the most handsome examples of domestic architecture in the state. The majority of the houses are on the coast but up-country and deep woods environments are represented.
When he moved to Maine in the 1970s, Glass writes, “I learned to value lessons of the original builders who knew about placing a house carefully on its site and about keeping it in proportion to its neighbors and its place.” Glass’s design philosophy is summed up in a quote from historian and critic, Marianna Griswold Van Rensselaer in a biography of Boston architect, Henry Hobson Richardson written in 1888. Describing one of Richardson’s houses, she says, “It is so appropriate to its surroundings that it seems to have grown out of them by a process of nature, and it is equally appropriate to its purpose. It explains itself at once as a gentleman’s summer home, but with a simplicity that does not put the humblest village neighbor out of countenance.”
The criteria for the choice of houses pictured and discussed in this book (aside from mundane practical ones) are appropriateness to place, “simplicity, reticence, comfort and air of space—with small dimensions...so the new generation of opulent showplace houses—the new Victorians will not be shown here,” writes Glass. The result is that the beautifully framed and composed photographs of Vanden Brink are as much about the Maine landscape as they are the dwelling..
The book is organized by the architectural task at hand: renovating older houses, converting other types of buildings into houses and building new houses. It is a feast of great design, great vistas and all around good living, but the appropriateness of the word reticence may be a tad dubious.
(At Home in Maine, 160 pp, 200 color photographs, 8 ½ x 11 format, $40.)