MOUNT DESERT — How did a lot of Mount Desert Island artists make it through a long, arduous winter? Most of them, it seems, transported themselves to sunny summer days on Somes Sound with sparkling seas filled with billowing sails and scudding fair weather clouds, emerald green grasses, tranquil turquoise ponds, garden gazebos and just about any place else where snow and ice were nowhere to be seen.
Escapist paintings are a big part of this year’s MDI Open, now on exhibit at the Sam Shaw Gallery in Northeast Harbor. The show runs through mid-June.
The theme this year is Somes Sound, and rather surprisingly, it appears that only one artist, Marc Fink of Bass Harbor, chose the beauty of this past winter season as his inspiration. His encaustic painting (a wax process) of a snowmelt waterfall brings shivers both for the memories it stirs and for the beauty of his technique and the textured medium. Stand too close, and it seems one might get wet from the icy spume splashing off the canvas.
A warmer view of the sound is seen in Bob Thayer’s exquisite photograph “Across Somes Sound,” which transforms the scene of the fjord, the cloud laden sky and brilliant green farther shore into something resembling the gorgeous special effects in a Peter Jackson movie. Greg Crossley’s “Moonlight Valley Cove,” a night scene done in colored pencil, is quite magical in its deep velvety darkness. Robert Clark also chose Valley Cove as his Somes Sound location, this time at rosy twilight with a small sloop moored in a dappled sea.
Aaron Mitchell has made the MDI Open a family affair, showing his own painting on glass of a shimmering map of the island. His children, Olive, Rig and Neva, contributed a trio of fun pastel abstracts.
Coming across Bob Jay’s painting in such shows is always like happening upon a peaceful light-struck place after a long walk.
There’s an ancient pine tree on the shore side of Sargent Drive that has inspired generations of artists and Sunday painters. Laura Ellis has rendered the gnarled old conifer in oils; Tammy Packie, in a photograph.
Another Packie, Robert, has created a watercolor on rice paper that looks both very ancient and very new.
A number of artists here have found inspiration in sailing.
Marion Smith’s view from Eliot Mountain is a delight of sun, sails and sloping hillside. Ellen Kappes’ delicate little scene of a sail-dotted Western Way and Maggie Johnson’s brightly painted lateen rig making its way out of Somes Harbor and Jennifer Judd McGee’s extraordinary paper cut scene of sailing on the sound are all terrific. My son Ben Lincoln’s evocative “Out of the Fog” has distant sailboats with colorful full-bellied spinnakers racing before a roiling fog bank.
Melita Westerlund is showing an unusually dark and dense paper fiber sculpture of coral. It is captivating, drawing one in like a black hole.
Several artists, Howie Montenke and Michael Rindley most successfully, have manipulated photographs of the sound to the point they resemble paintings. Ivan Rasmussen’s “Herons” are as romantic as a pair of young lovers and Nan Ulett’s “Somes Sound Lobster” sculpture from found wood is a handsome old bachelor of a crustacean.
Perhaps the most joy-filled image in the show is Diana Young’s topsy-turvy “View from the Asticou.”
As ever, Paul Monfredo’s sumptuous gold leaf and lapis blue mirror is the jewel in the crown of this MDI Open show. This one features a shimmering sound-like scene atop and codfish swimming down the sides.
Noreen Hunter’s metal and leather dancers greet folks with great enthusiasm as they come through the door. Beth Pfeiffer’s contemplative figure woodblock “Seeing the Glow,” Chris Diaz’s charming woodblock of a gull, titled “Sand Beach,” and Kathe MacDonald’s pretty and colorful little quilted piece help carry the show beyond the theme.
There are many more summery delights of the sound on view as well. They include Leanne Nickon’s hand-painted silk scarf, Ali Kassel’s pretty little collage and more, not to mention the fabulous selection of jewelry at Sam Shaw’s.