Marilyn Solvay’s mixed media sculpture is part of the Women’s History Art Exhibit at the Southwest Harbor Public Library. The exhibit will be open till 1 p.m. this Saturday, March 28. PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Women’s history, creativity celebrated in art

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The month of March doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it; this one has been particularly dreary.

But March does offer some fine rewards for those who know where to look.

One of these prizes is the annual Women’s History Art Exhibit at the Southwest Harbor Public Library. This has always been one of the most impressive group shows of the year, showcasing the work of MDI’s artists – primarily women artists – in a variety of genres and media.

This year is a case in point. Photography, collage, needlework, fabric, stained glass and sculpture, along with dozens of watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings have made a trip to the library a veritable adventure.

The theme is “Journey,” and what an interesting itinerary it is. In addition to the theme-related art works, most of the artists also have shared a little of their own personal journey both in their pieces and the accompanying title cards.

Mandy Tracey is very specific in the focus of her autobiographical cartoon “Journey through Anxiety,” showing us in four panels her transition from a black puddle of fear to a near Zen-like figure of self-assuredness.

Katherine Greene also used panels in her gouache on silk abstract, “Grief.” Here she uses a repetitive and pleasing geometry connected by black thread, unspooling from three spots of pure gold to express the journey she went through following her mother’s death.

Jennie Jordan Cline’s journey is also intensely personal, as it visually takes us down a maze-like path of medical therapies, emotional ups and downs and life changes after her cancer diagnosis.

Marilyn Solvay, on the other hand, has undertaken a broader view with her mixed media sculpture. Her clever, freestanding mobile fashioned from a wind vent seems to illustrate the socio-political journey of modern womankind.

In her large acrylic “Mixed Emotions,” Mary Davidson depicts a trio of women whose faces are all obscured one way or another.

In Ann Jones’ collage “We are the Director of Our Own Story,” all that is left of a face is a luscious pair of lips and a single smoky blue eye.

Kathe McDonald’s mixed media piece spotlights the materials that make the journey. A photograph of California rocks she brought home to Maine is now swaddled in delicate strips of quilted fabric and beading.

Nan Ulett’s stained glass window “Upstream,” depicting salmon making their difficult spawning journey, can be taken either literally or as a metaphor for life.

Nan Ulett’s “Upstream,” stained glass, will be on display at the Southwest Harbor Public Library till 1 p.m. this Saturday.  PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Nan Ulett’s “Upstream,” stained glass, will be on display at the Southwest Harbor Public Library till 1 p.m. this Saturday.

The same can be said for Judy Taylor’s evocative painting of two women walking along the shore. It seems less a portrait of particular women in a particular place than an idealized memory of youth and happiness.

Kathleen Frank’s journey takes us through a solid brick wall into a pristine winter wonderland.

In her photograph “Pass at Your Own Risk,” Tammy Packie has captured a precise moment in which a message painted on the side of an abandoned bus is illustrated by a large truck barreling past. It is both ominous and amusing.

Elizabeth Keenan’s watercolor “Transition” depicts the journey of light. In six panels, she has painted the same island at different tides and times of year, showing how the quality of light can make the identical utterly different.

While Christine Swersey’s exuberant oil abstract “Soul Dancers” is ostensibly about the eternal movement of life, her vibrant splotches and smears of color also take the viewer on a journey in time to the palette of the ‘60s where Peter Max and yellow submarines grooved in psychedelic harmony.

Beth Pfeiffer’s lovely woodblock of brilliant red geraniums, she explained, takes her back to a time and place when she made a major transition in her life.

There are several fine pieces shown in this exhibit in which the journey is largely in the experience of the artist – Ellen Church’s exquisitely detailed watercolor “Up the Frozen Marsh,” and Jean Forbes’ exquisitely undetailed watercolor “Seascape Abstraction,” for instance.

Fabric artist Pat LaPierre’s “Floribunda” is a breathtakingly beautiful example of free motion quilting and traditional candle wicking.

There are dozens more. Most are on sale at astonishingly reasonable prices with some of the proceeds to benefit the library. But there are only a few more days left to see them as the show closes this Saturday at 1 p.m.


Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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