Catch it while you can: On Wednesday, Sept. 4, I caught the very last day of Jefferson artist Carol Wiley’s exhibit titled “Figures and Shapes” in the West Gallery at River Arts, located at 241 Route 1 in Damariscotta.
I was glad for the opportunity to see Wiley’s interesting work – mostly paintings, and a couple of encaustic pieces.
“Pauline,” one of those encaustic pieces, struck me as particularly lovely and well-executed. It is a portrait in wax of Wiley’s late grandmother. The “fading away” quality of the woman’s face in the piece, achieved by layering wax over her image, gives a gentle ghost-like appearance – fitting since she is no longer of this world.
Wiley’s painted self-portrait, titled “Self Portrait as Potato Eater,” presents Wiley in a serious light in a red cap and sky-blue sweater, looking quite different from the photo of her on her website, carolwileystudio.com. In the painting, she appears as if she could be, say, a field worker from two centuries ago; online, she is a smiling, decidedly modern woman. It always intrigues me, as I have said before, to see what qualities artists choose to bring out in a self-portrait, giving insight into how they view themselves.
Other Wiley paintings – abstracts of shapes/figures – get one’s imagination going, such as “The Nine (Justices),” featuring nine black shapes/figures that could be seen as crows, nuns, judges, or simply black shapes.
The point I am getting to about West Gallery shows is this: I have always found them to be compelling (I can never forget the impact that Michael Blaze Petan’s “My Neck of the Woods” show in summer 2017 had on me, for instance) and they are always of short duration. Most last about two weeks.
I asked gallery director Alice de Mauriac to comment about the ephemeral, powerful nature of these shows. This is what she said:
“Our West Gallery exhibitions create an opportunity for River Arts’ members to install individual and completely original shows. Every two weeks, the gallery is assigned to an artist (or group of artists) who install their own artwork. This setup provides for an astounding array of diverse artists to show in the West Gallery.
“The private, bright space encourages exciting and unexpected installations of everything from very edgy work to professional plein air painters to contemporary sculpture. I love going in on Fridays after the artists have completed their installation to see what latest surprise awaits.
“Often, artists will hold their own gala receptions, which carry their own personalities as well. Installations by the artists with the intimacy of the West Gallery create a special art experience for the artist and the audience to enjoy a body of work in a comfortable environment.”
De Mauriac added that the West Gallery “will be scheduling 2020, shortly. We still have two weeks available for rent at the end of this year, if anyone is interested.” Contact de Mauriac at River Arts at 563-1507, or go to riverartsme.org to learn more.
The current West Gallery show, which closes Tuesday, Sept. 17, features a number of Midcoast artists, including Sherrie Dec, Cathy Eagleson, Wanda Leavitt, Sharon Marchi, Jo M. Orise, and John Wood, all students at Ronald Frontin’s Open Atelier of Midcoast Maine in Thomaston.
RIP, Maude Olsen: Widely known South Bristol watercolorist and calligrapher Maude Olsen, whose fine work graces Saltwater Artists Gallery in New Harbor, passed away on Sept. 5 at the age of 95. She lived a long life and touched many people along the way, including her many students of watercolor, calligraphy, and drawing. (See obituary this issue for details of Olsen’s well-lived life.)
(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.)