The ten painter portfolio openings
Rye painter Jan Waldron opens the book with a portfolio of eleven images in oil titled “The Way Home.” It’s a window into a world full of narrative, each painting peeks into a story that is at once inviting, dreamlike, and just a little bit old-timey. The familiarity of her subject matter—kids playing, laundry in the yard, figures on a path—evokes a sense of nostalgia or déja vu in us that echoes the domestic comforts of home. Here is art both rich and uncomplicated, accessible to almost any sensibility, and the perfect introduction into the diverse worlds of local visionaries.
The second chapter features Tom Glover, who earned his BFA at UNH in ’84 and has been painting the region ever since. Then and after he was student of John Laurent who excited him about traditional painting as well as the ideas and theories of the modernists. The work stacked up or hanging in his studio today reflects a familiarity and fluency with both worlds—the representational ideal of capturing a visual reality, and the use of bold colors and shapes to create more abstract visual effects. In his portfolio “On the Docks,” Tom’s subject matter of boats, fish, nets and gear remains recognizable but abstracted, in this painting playfully to where empty tubes of oil paint have become fish caught in a net.
Figures and portraits by South Berwick artist Pamela duLong Williams fill the 3rd chapter. She titles her portfolio “My People” for the simple reason she falls in love with her sitters, especially the children. Her work is colorful with bold and buttery brushwork, every painting bursting with life and energy not unlike the painter herself. Not all the images here are formal portraits, some are figures drawn from life, in particular the nudes in oil and oil pastels are brilliant!
“Yeah, But Is It ART?” has Gordon Carlisle wearing the hat of “Mr Slick,” long-suffering plein aire painter who recurs in this series of revisioned Paint-by-Number paintings. Regarding the recovering of a quaint New England covered bridge with pink fabric, the viewer is left to wonder whether Mr Slick is commenting on the artistic merits of the Paint-by-Number painting he is in? Or the artistic merits of covering iconic landmarks in bright fabric? Which inevitably brings up the merits of art itself. And where is Gordon Carlisle in this? Gently poking fun at all of it, including himself.
Chapter 5 of Ten Piscataqua Painters has us exploring Kittery Point artist Bill Paarlberg’s “City of Water and Color.” Street and waterfront scenes of Portsmouth’s downtown and South End areas populate this collection of masterful watercolor paintings. Bill was a student of Dewitt Hardy and has been making art with Portsmouth as one of his subjects for more than 4 decades now, including his “Famous Monsters of Portsmouth” drawings. He currently teaches plein aire watercolor painting at Sanctuary Arts in Eliot.
“Abstracting the Place” is exactly what’s going on in Dustan Knight’s portfolio. These paintings are inspired by a walk or visit to a particular place and then back to the studio to recapture the experience in acrylic. But there is another big piece to her work which is the happening of the painting itself, which she likens to a piece of jazz improv, where one instrument comes forward while another recedes, and yet another weaves around to the side ready to add its bright notes and so on in a layering of color and texture, depth, tone and conversations between one part of the painting and the others. She’s so brilliant at it I can hear the wind in the winter woods of “Near By.”
Chapter 7 explores the singular style of John LeCours’ paintings in a portfolio titled “Harbour Light.” These harbor and river scenes of the Piscataqua are recognizable but rendered in a way you’ve never seen before, dreamlike and luminous. Details take a backseat to the multilayered atmospheres that remind you of Turner’s romantic landscapes, but at the same time the indistinct and scratchy quality of boats, buoys, and bridges create an illusion that these contemporary paintings are really antiques.
Singles, pairs, and groups of figures in an environment or engaged in various activities are the subjects of Jayne Adams’ portfolio ”everybody.” Many of her works are drawn from life with models, while others are wholly invented, having been inspired by a story or memory. A prolific figure painter since high school, she typically works on wood panel, beginning with a drawing and then layering up colors and glazes, occasionally adding textures and other surface effects. Most of of her works are ultimately about human connections and relationships.
Wolfgang Ertl’s portfolio “Waterlands” explores a variety of wet landscapes as well as numerous ways of rendering water with what is by far the driest of all painting media—pastel. Whether it’s looking down a seaside cliff at the raging surf below, upstream at a mountain waterfall, or across a calm lake reflecting an enormous sky, Ertl has it mastered.
Beth Wittenberg’s portfolio “Pandemic Blues” makes up the final chapter, ending on an entirely different note than all the previous portfolios, but no less important. She paints with symbols, spray paint, words, stencils, and she employs and invents all kinds of nontraditional methods and media to tell her stories. These are not pretty stories, they are at once intense, provocative, even scary because they call attention to that which we fear and close our eyes to—unpleasant things like marginalization, addiction, mental illness, injustice, pandemics—and that’s just for starters!