Friday, March 02, 2007


In like a lion

I took the day off yesterday, knowing what was coming today, and yes, it is indeed here. I walked down to the bookshop in the wild horizontal snow to check in, water my plants, and see if I could make a painting today, but I have no plans to open. Possibly not tomorrow either. The snow is tremendous right now and will be all day, we're supposed to get a foot or more. Just yesterday I saw cedar waxwings flying around happily - I hope they find some refuge somewhere.

So, yesterday: I knew it would be my only chance to get out of town for another week at least, so I drove to Rockland (over an hour away) to visit the Farnsworth Museum, stop in at a few bookshops, see the ocean, and generally get some sunshine (in the thirties and full warm sun all day - I even sat outside for a while and wrote in my journal). The Wyeth family has a huge cache of their artwork at the Farnsworth, and one of my favorites there is an N.C. Wyeth painting of his house near Port Clyde, Maine - he named his home "Eight Bells" after the famous Winslow Homer painting. It's simple, but quite large, and the shadows in it are wonderfully blue (it always makes me think about how alive shadows are - and what exactly are those colors of shadow on a white clapboard house in the sun, near the ocean?). Some of the Wyeth art leaves me cold - perhaps it's supposed to - but one thing for sure, they are all masterful paint handlers, each in their own way, and that is always a joy to see. I love seeing paint handled well, for its own sake, not just in service to making a picture or a reproduction of a scene. I saw some other wonderful things at the museum - two Fairfield Porters that bowl me over every time I see them, two paintings by George Bellows that are out of this world, and one early Rockwell Kent that makes me want to paint snow. I went in the morning, looked around for two hours, left and had lunch, then went back for another two hours. The museum is really the perfect size - I saw some masterpieces but didn't feel glutted with the weight of the entire history of art when I left.

The bookshop report: one shop in Rockland is still there but has changed its name and I don't know what that means; it's both a coffee shop and used bookshop and it was bustling with activity but I didn't see the owners around, and I didn't find any books to buy, so I snuck out anonymously. On the way home I stopped in at a little new-book store in Searsport, Left Bank Books, which is right on Route One in an exquisite brick bank building that makes me extremely jealous (look at that picture! - I'd like my shop in there...). I did buy one book by a local author, something I've wanted to pick up a copy of since I found out about it: Small Misty Mountain: The Awanadjo Almanack (Pushcart Press 2006). McCall reads his ongoing Awanadjo Almanack on the radio twice a week at our local community radio station, WERU. Here's a review of the book from last month in the Bangor Daily News. I browsed in it last night, and it really is a true almanac, and in fact the author tells us that he collects almanacs, historical and otherwise. His book also contains illustrations by famous Blue Hill resident and reverend Jonathan Fisher (who lived from 1768-1847). Coincidentally, I'd just seen a large collection of his original wood engravings, illustrated books, and handmade carving tools at the Farnsworth as part of their printmaking exhibit.

Home at dusk, before bed I finished reading John Gruen's book The Party's Over Now, about the 1950s New York art scene, fell asleep, and dreamed about painting. And books.

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