ELLSWORTH — Sedgwick filmmaker Richard Kane’s 2016 film about Little Cranberry Island’s 94-year-old creative wonder, Ashley Bryan, will be shown at The Grand on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m.
Bryan’s life works range widely from award-winning picture books to puppets and stained-glass windows made from his beach finds.
Born in 1923, Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night in his family’s home in the New York City borough of the Bronx. The African-American artist was nurtured by New York artist Romare Beardon at the tuition-free Cooper Union School of Art – where applicants were not interviewed in person – on the sole basis of his portfolio.
World War II, however, interrupted his art career, and he was drafted into the segregated U.S. Army at age 19. Hiding his art materials in his gas mask, he recorded everyday life in his port battalion.
A Kane-Lewis Productions film, Kane and Brooksville artist Robert Shetterly made the documentary as part of the Union of Maine Visual Artists’ Maine Masters Project. Nineteen films, whose subjects range from William Irvine to Dahlov Ipcar, have either been distributed or are in development as part of the series.
In the works for several years now, “I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan” takes viewers on a journey from the artist’s return to Cooper Union, summer at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in central Maine, his extensive teaching career and permanent move to the Cranberry Isles in 1988. He already had visited and spent summers for decades in the Cranberry Isles since the early 1950s.
A highly prolific artist who is always working on multiple projects, from his plein-air flower paintings to more than 50 illustrated books, Bryan most recently won a 2017 Newbery Honor Award for his latest book, “Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.”
“He [Ashley Bryan] has been using his entire life to celebrate joy, mediate the darkness of war and racism, explore the mysteries of faith and create loving community,” said the filmmakers.