Friday, December 03, 2010


A love letter to Maine

This fall I've been attempting to write a new version of my artist statement. The artist statement is a short piece of expository writing usually found alongside the bio and résumé or c.v., and is supposed to state succinctly why the artist does what she or he does. Or what the artist does and why. Or something like that. Sounds easy, right? Weeell. Try it and see.

At last I have my final version. It's only three sentences long and it took me three weeks to write. However, in the meantime I ended up with all kinds of stuff about why I love Maine so much and I thought I'd post some of that here. Because when I talk about why I love to paint, it almost always comes back to the love I have for this great state. I don't mean to say that all kinds of places aren't wonderful, because they are, but for me Maine is where it's at and I'm so grateful to be from here and to still live here. So, here goes, not my artist statement, but some of the flotsam and jetsam behind it:

I'm painting love letters to Maine, love letters full of all the stuff they are usually full of - adoration, distress, description, openness, difficulty. I revel in the particulars of the beloved - all the fine things - while tenderly accepting the faults that make up character and history.

Maine is an old heirloom apple tree. The fruit may be scarred but is still as sweet as ever. Get it while you can, the tree may not bear much longer.

Maine is the best! It's rugged, homely, elegant, strong, radiant, proud, orderly, foggy, beautiful, dark, natural, eternal, changeable, humbling, sublime!

Maine takes your identity away, who you thought you were, and gives you back something better, something more yourself.

Maine contains so many apparent dualities: hard, soft; overbuilt, barren; peace, mayhem; summer, winter; foggy, clear; city, country; purity, deviltry; shacks, mansions. Yet Maine still manages to be one place and one state of mind.

Maine has an impersonal beauty that pulls me outside of my self. Maine has radiance and spaciousness, integrity, a sense of eternal concerns, a fortitude that knows how to weather anything that arises. Once you participate in Maine's radiance, you can't not participate in it.

Maine is real, raw, where I live, what I think of as beautiful. Maine is vivid and alive. Maine is hard-earned.

Maine teaches bleak acceptance of what is, and joy in what is, simultaneously.

Maine is ancient, but never gets old.

Maine is the old-time band I dance to, the movie I most want to watch, the radio station that plays the best music, the art museum that's always open and shows my favorite paintings, the library full of books that mean the most, a photo album of beloved friends and family, the channel with all the good shows, a warm woodstove on a cold evening, the most comfortable old clothes, the satisfying food at the church supper. It is all these things; it is itself. Maine is home.

Dear me. Reading this over, I see that Mainers can be terribly place-proud and I am no exception (there is Maine, and then there is not-Maine). But I mean no disrespect and sincerely hope your own special place is all these things to you and much more, dear reader.

Here's a recent painting I made of a Maine island hillside on a blustery fall afternoon. Maine is:

Maine's Bureau of Tourism should hire you to write its brochures and commercials!
Thanks, I think!

Here is a p.s. about my love letter to Maine:

Maine = Nature. I am thankful to live in a rural place where Nature is evident and insistent. When I really think about it, it could be anywhere.

By the bye, I think part of blogging is being unafraid of letting your sincerity embarrass you in public.

Now I'm going out to shovel snow.
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