SOUTHWEST HARBOR—Much of Gary Hoyle’s artistic career has been working with creating realistic reflections of life, but his show, “Aspects of Nature,” allows the viewer’s imagination to travel wherever it may.
When the Wendell Gilley Museum opens for the season on May 14, Hoyle’s show will be on display until the second week of June. Also in the museum will be a few examples of Hoyle’s realism work.
For nearly three decades, Hoyle worked as an artist for the Maine State Museum, creating displays and bringing the stories of the state’s past to life.
“It was probably the best job in state government,” said Hoyle, who has lived on Swan’s Island year–round for the last 14 years. “It really does force you to be creative and work in a lot of different mediums. You’re constantly challenged.”
One medium Hoyle has leaned on more in his post–museum years is painting. To create the pieces in his show, he employs a technique called marbelizing. To start, Hoyle takes oil paint and dilutes it with a solvent, such as turpentine, and then puts it in a shallow water bath where it floats to the surface.
“It creates an effect like gasoline on water,” explained Hoyle in a recent conversation with the Islander. “It varies as to what the final results are… Sometimes I add a lot of different colors to the print; sometimes I just add a few touches.”
Once the colors are in the water, Hoyle takes a canvas and places it on the top of the pool to pick up the different hues and the natural patterns they create.
“You want to make sure you get enough pigment in there so you’ll pick up a print that you actually see,” he explained. “Sometimes I do it more than once because it is too faint. Then you get a different print altogether.”
Most of the time Hoyle waits a week for the print to dry completely before deciding if he wants to add colors or details.
“Basically, the print itself directs me,” he said. “I try to avoid putting my judgement on the print. When you are a realistic artist and you’re working in abstract, you try to dominate the process.”
Often the images have the feel of looking out the window of an airplane or a spaceship at the landscape of another planet.
“Quite often I can see aerial views in the print and I try to enhance the process,” said Hoyle. “You get different granulated effects depending on what solvents you use.”
Similar to his work with wax in creating realistic representations of plants and foods for the Maine State Museum where Hoyle would add color to beeswax, it can be tricky to get a consistent outcome.
“To know what you’re going to get for color, you have to let the wax cool,” he explained. “It’s kind of labor intensive. I used to take a lot of color notes. From those color notes I would make up batches.”
Also on display at the Wendell Gilley Museum are a few turtles created by Hoyle using epoxy clay. “Those turtles have been around, in Colorado and a number of different museums.”
Growing up in Gardiner, Maine, Hoyle often visited the estate of Sylvester Gardiner and Mount Tom to record the landscape and flowers with watercolor paints. When he was 12 years old, his family went to the Boston Museum of Science and Hoyle became fascinated with the dioramas displaying historic events.
“I just fell in love with these little sculptures,” he said, adding that he then started making dioramas in his room.
When he was 14 years old, a family friend noticed Hoyle’s displays and introduced him to artist Klir Beck who was in the process of reviving the Maine State Museum. “It was just magical to me.”
Beck asked Hoyle to sculpt some turtles for the exhibit that he was able to present to the state’s governor at the time, John Reed. “That was actually what I wanted to do at that time.”
It took a few years for Hoyle to be able to fulfill his dream of working at the museum. After high school he earned a degree in zoology at the University of Maine and taught chemistry at Cony High School, all the while pursuing a position at the museum. Eventually, while he was working as a house painter, the museum asked him to come in for an interview. For the next 28 years, Hoyle was immersed in historical art.
Since the pandemic began, Hoyle has revisited one of his crowning achievements at the museum; leading an archeological team in extracting the remains of a mammoth in the mid-1990s from a site in Scarborough. He has been writing a book, “Searching for Elephants in the Maine Woods.”
“I have done some visual work for the book to try to not only tell the story with words, but visually too,” said Hoyle, noting life on Swan’s Island can provide its own inspiration. “Here I have known more creative people than I ever did in the Augusta area.”
Join Gary Hoyle for a virtual exhibit opening with the Wendell Gilley Museum at 7 p.m. on May 28.