History in watercolors: There is a charming art exhibit up on the walls of the community room at Sheepscot General in Whitefield by Whitefield historian and watercolorist Lucy Martin. As she told me recently, the show is largely based on “old-time black-and-white or sepia postcards,” and features watercolors of historical locations in Whitefield, framed in local-pine frames made by her husband, Herb Hartman.
“The watercolors in this exhibit spring in part from Martin’s childhood pleasures of drawing and painting,” says her accompanying artist statement. “In particular, the works based on historic images attempt to awaken a curiosity about what the living reality was like for the generations who traveled these roads, worked in the mills, or farmed the land, and gathered in community many years ago …
“I hope viewers, especially people who live in Whitefield or have roots here, experience a familiar sense of place and joy in the beauty of this still-rural landscape, despite the changes time brings.”
There are paintings of the Kings Mills Union Hall, which was built in 1900-1901; the Bell Schoolhouse at Kings Mills; the Arlington Grange Hall, built in 1885, and now the home of the Whitefield Library & Community Center; and St. Denis Catholic Church, built circa 1910. It is so refreshing to see Martin’s color interpretation of what many of these places looked like in their heyday.
A painting titled “Coopers Mills lower dam and mills (c. 1910)” offers a glimpse of what that area of Coopers Mills’ Main Street looked like before its current renovation as a lovely small park, its dam removed to improve fish passage.
A painting of the barn at Bailey’s Orchard on North Hunts Meadow Road shows off the beauty of Whitefield in the fall, evoked by its piles of orange pumpkins, autumn leaves, and long, late-in-the-year shadow of a large tree cast in the foreground of the piece.
Another painting, of a herd of black-and-white cows crossing Townhouse Road with the help of a farmer and his dog, highlights the bucolic pleasures that still abound in Whitefield. As it turns out, this piece, fittingly titled “Cow crossing, Townhouse Rd.,” is one of several modern-day depictions; it is of local farmer Mike Moody and his cows, Martin said.
For good measure, Martin includes some of the original noncolor postcards of early Whitefield. There is a particularly interesting one of Main Street in North Whitefield when it was still a dirt road, and one of Main Street in Coopers Mills before it was paved, which Martin worked from to create the painting “Main St., Coopers Mills (c. 1910).”
What one realizes upon viewing Martin’s exhibit is that Whitefield has indeed retained its compelling rural beauty, despite having paved many of its roads – and that Martin’s keen, sympathetic sensibility and skill with sketching and watercolor has made it possible for viewers to see that clearly.
Martin’s show runs through Wednesday, July 31. Sheepscot General is located at 98 Townhouse Road, Whitefield, and is online at sheepscotgeneral.com.
(Christine LaPado-Breglia has written about the arts in both California and Maine. She is the recipient of two 2018 Critic’s Awards and a 2018 Local Columnist award from the Maine Press Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write her a letter in care of The Lincoln County News, P.O. Box 36, Damariscotta, ME 04543.)