The nature-focused paintings – oils and watercolors – of Newcastle artist Helen Warner currently grace the walls of two rooms at the new Pemaquid Watershed Association office in Damariscotta. The organization’s conference room contains her oil paintings, plus a couple of watercolors; the other – with more light coming in the windows – features watercolor paintings exclusively.
The decision to populate the brighter room with Warner’s watercolors was a good one. The subtle, delicate layering of colors in these pieces is brought out by the natural lighting.
“Enchanted Forest” is a lovely piece in the “watercolor room” featuring the alluring dark greens of trees offset by the warm colors – maroon, orange, peach – of sky and ground.
“Marsh River,” “Tidal Marsh,” and “The Bridges of Sheepscot” are all bird’s-eye takes on local waterways. They are appealing as art, while at the same time having an almost scientific quality to them, as if they are intended partly to be very realistic representations of the natural world, somewhat map-like.
A trio of paintings hangs above the three-panel window in the room – “Ferns,” “Birches,” and “Serenity.” “Ferns” is a small watercolor that resembles a photograph in its ability to portray depth of field; Warner’s able technique causes some ferns to appear to be closer to the viewer’s eye and in focus, and others to recede into a blurred background.
“Into the Garden,” another small watercolor, this one of flowers, similarly achieves the effect of a cleverly blurred photograph.
Warner’s “Green Woods” is a particularly interesting piece. Ostensibly a watercolor of trees, it borders on the abstract so much that the densely packed vertical images in the painting evoke spears of asparagus, or even simply a grouping of lines, while still representing trees.
Warner’s oil paintings are formidable. “Crashing Wave,” “After the Storm,” “Morning,” and “Looking Upstream” are all framed in striking gold-tone frames. The first two depict crashing ocean waves, while the latter two show the calmer side of water. “Morning” – of a sunrise over a quiet ocean – is notable for its richness of color, its blues, pinks, yellow, and orange creating an inviting scene that hints at the abstract.
The inviting “Blue” features a stormy blue sky over blue water, delineated from one another by a hazy horizon line. “Monhegan View” is a realistic landscape painting from the vantage point of the top of a cliff, looking down to trees, rocks, and ocean.
“Solitude” is Warner’s only black-and-white piece – an effective oil painting of what appears to be a marsh, framed in black. Both it and “Birches” – featuring white-trunked trees amid yellows and oranges – are peaceful pieces that serve as contrast for such “active” pieces as “Crashing Wave.”
Taking one’s time to peruse Warner’s PWA show at leisure is a worthwhile endeavor. Her artwork is beautiful and fits in nicely with PWA’s aim of promoting the conservation of local natural resources. Looking through Warner’s eyes, one can easily appreciate the beauty of the natural world that surrounds us.
Warner’s work may be viewed from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at the PWA office, 584 Main St., Damariscotta, through Friday, Aug. 12. Call 563-2196 for more information.