Two new member artists of the Pemaquid Art Gallery, John Butke, of Boothbay, and Gwendolyn Evans, of Walpole, share a few similarities: extensive and impressive professional careers in teaching and creating art, their own local galleries, and a deep love of the beauties of coastal Maine. What is fascinating, however, is how differently these two career artists and art educators express this inspiration in their art. Starting with these two artists, occasional articles will be featured on new and old Pemaquid Gallery members to compare and contrast the fascinating art now on view at the recently re-opened gallery.
Butke received his art education as an undergraduate at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, with an MFA in painting and printmaking from Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. He continued his studies in New Mexico and California, working with well-known artists at each location. Following a stint in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa, he taught art at the University of Wisconsin – Stout for two years, and subsequently returned to Worcester, Mass., where he taught art in the public schools.
Early summering in Maine brought him to Sawyer’s Island in Boothbay, and inspired the work seen today. His work has been on view recently or is on view currently in the area at River Arts, Boothbay Regional Art Foundation, and at his own gallery in Boothbay.
Expressing “the beauty and allure” of Maine is Butke’s goal and his work does this with great success. His land- and seascapes in oil and acrylic reveal great sensitivity to color, often complementary colors placed next to each other that subtly create gently luminous atmospheric effects or shapes that interlock or react next to each other and soften as they recede into the distance. Value differences add to the dynamic in his work and can be quite dramatic.
The realism of his scenes from a distance becomes quite abstract on closer viewing, built with abstract forms and broad, flat brushstroke application. There is also a stability and solidity to his compositions expressing a calm, all-encompassing appreciation of his chosen subject. But at the same time there is a strong sense of the abstract pattern as it relates to the two-dimensional canvas and a beautiful balance in the overall result. The pattern of light and reflection in his depiction of water is lyrical and masterful. He captures the essence of the moment, almost a spiritual appreciation of the action, the light and time of day that draws the viewer in to be part of the beauties of the coastal Maine world.
Evans has created and exhibited her art for decades among the 35 places she has called home. With a master’s degree from Rhode Island School of Design and an undergraduate degree from Principia College, and many workshops with acclaimed artists, she has loved working in a variety of mediums and has exhibited in over 100 juried regional, national and international shows, receiving numerous awards.
She has made numerous painting excursions in the U.S. and internationally. She has taught art in private college-prep and public schools in Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania and in four public studio/galleries where she has offered courses and workshops in watercolor, drawing and life drawing, pastel, and portraiture. She is presently offering drawing courses at her studio in Walpole where her art is on view.
Besides creating visual art, she has many other creative focuses, including writing inspirational articles, poetry, women’s studies, writing a cookbook, gardening, and a life-long interest in spirituality, all influencing her painting.
The watercolors she is showing are large, bold, and take wonderful advantage of the watercolor medium’s flickering transparent qualities. They depict local scenic views, the sea, the coast, and charming historic buildings and, although the works on view are realistic, they are restless and expressionistic, with strong light and dark patterns and rich shadows and lights. Many of them tend to feature simple color combinations, with ranges of dark greens, blues, and grays in short, juicy, impressionistic, transparent strokes and a masterful use of the leaving the white paper exposed to contrast with the overall pattern of short, dark paint strokes.
She occasionally uses complementary colors as glazes in abstract washes over landscape details to pull elements together in a glowing light. Her watercolors are delight for the viewer to peruse, with the eye following the dancing lights and darks across the paper.
What an interesting comparison the work of these two artists provides as they depict the beauties of coastal Maine.
The other 2021 Pemaquid Art Gallery artists include: Barbara Applegate, Debra Arter, Bruce Babb, Julie Babb, Stephen Busch, Dianne Dolan, Peggy Farrell, Sarah Fisher, Claire Hancock, Kay Sawyer Hannah, Kathleen Horst, Hannah Ineson, Will Kefauver, Jan Kilburn, Barbara Klein, Patti Leavitt, Sally Loughridge, Judy Nixon, Brooke Pacy, Alexandra Perry-Weiss, Paul Sherman, Cindy Spencer, Liliana Thelander, Kimberly Skillin Traina, Barbara Vanderbilt, Bob Vaughan, Candace Vlcek, Bev Walker, Carol Wiley, and Sherrie York.