SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Marine artist Phil Steel, owner of the Salty Dog Gallery in Southwest Harbor, has taken a page from the Shaw Gallery’s MDI Open show held in Northeast Harbor early each summer.
Steel opened his own invitational exhibit of local artists with a well attended reception Wednesday night for a show that featured about 25 area artists and included Mr. Steel’s own handsome oil and watercolor works.
As with the MDI Open, the result is a mixed bag of well-established artists and emerging talent, revealing a great diversity of offerings as well as some wonderful surprises.
Not surprising at all is the talent of Wini Smart, an established Cranberry Island artist, whose “Bernard Marsh” shows that she is still a master of capturing that luminous quality of light on water. But hanging nearby is another contender in that area. Penny Evans’ watercolor of the Bass Harbor Marsh in winter is also captivating with its pearly rendition of winter sun. Watercolorist Marion Smith of Bar Harbor just gets better every year. Her two island scenes, one with the deep golden light of fall, the other with pale spring sunlight on a granite ledge, are perhaps her best yet. One can almost smell the distinct aroma of those two seasons while standing in front of her paintings.
A newcomer to this genre is Nancy Homer of Southwest Harbor whose charming bushel of apples and “Laundry Day” have a faintly Wyeth-esque flavor.
It is always a delight to encounter Ivan Rasmussen’s handsome crows, and the two this Bar Harbor artist and gallery owner has on display here are no exception.
Maggie Johnston is another Sunday painter who is constantly improving her technique. Her watercolor of the wooden boat Lewis H. Story is captivating.
Susan Michalski has an interesting take on rocky ledges, rendering them in intriguing, almost abstract paper collages with inked in details, bringing unexpected textures and colors to the subject.
Freda Dunn achieves the difficult task of rendering in oils that fragile winter light and multihued palette of snow in her truly inspiring “Magic of Maine Winter.”
Barbara Strubell has contributed a pair of pleasing scenes of water reflection and forest, Donna Parker’s “Wash Basin” is an inviting still life, and Barbara Shelley’s “Red Barn” is an especially welcoming scene.
Jim Green’s bronze bird and puffin sculptures are truly accomplished, and of course Mr. Steel’s own watercolor and oils command attention. Especially evocative is his haunting rendition of an old vernacular house in Kennebunk that is almost a biography of a family that grew and grew and then went away.
But in Brenda Merritt’s absolutely enchanting still life triptych of various vessels, fabrics and breakfast foods, “Food for Thought,” each delightful little scene is rendered with almost surreal precision is. At $579, it is the big steal of the show. It would be at twice that price. Why it hasn’t been snapped up yet is a mystery.
These and the efforts of about a dozen other painters, sculptors and photographers are an excellent reason to brave the construction in Southwest Harbor before the show closes Sept. 27.