MOUNT DESERT — With a two-story bank of windows looking out across Somes Harbor at the scenic wonders of Mount Desert Island, it should be no surprise that the Gallery at Somes Sound seems to share a physical connection to Acadia National Park.
And now, through an innovative exhibit that partners modern day artists and their takes on iconic images of the past, gallery owner Tyra Hanson has managed to connect not just the gallery with the landscape, but the present with an equally rich and verdant past.
Like so many of the events and exhibits launched in homage to Acadia’s centennial year, Hanson began lining up talent more than a year ago. She found eager participants in likes of Diana Cobb Ansley, Scott Baltz, Eline Barclay, Robert Clark, Donald Demers, Anne Ireland, Ernest McMullen, Donald Rainville, Judy Taylor and Peter Yesis.
Ansley weighed in with a modern interpretation of Fitz Henry Lane’s painting of the entrance to Somes Sound. Baltz reprised Frederic Edwin Church’s iconic view of Cadillac Mountain from Otter Creek. Ireland too was inspired by Church’s Otter Creek scene and provides gallery goers with a second brush on this iconic image.
Church, who did numerous studies from the top of Cadillac, and whose seminal work “Twilight in the Wilderness” was said to be based on the sunsets he saw from there, worked tirelessly to capture the nuances of the sky. Barclay shares her take on his legacy with “Last Light from Cadillac Mountain.”
Clark, obviously not wanting to reproduce an existing work exactly in his own style, offers up modern sailboats racing in the Great Harbor as his nod to Lane. That’s the same tack used by McMullen, who brings his eye for super-detailing to bear on capturing the rare luminosity of the sound in his marvelous “Lifting Fog at the Entrance to Somes Sound.”
Demers’ “Acadian Surf” captures the power and light of waves along Acadia’s rocky shores in a work that shares some DNA with Church’s “Rough Surf.”
Rainville, too, found inspiration in Church, reprising the latter’s signature “Sunset from Bar Harbor” with its distinctive sailboats at their moorings in the gathering darkness. It is that painting by Church that graces the cover of John Wilmerding’s meticulously researched book on the artist in Maine, “Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin.”
Taylor fearlessly chose to reproduce Church’s “Newport Mountain” from nearly the exact perspective of the version done more than a century ago. Her own style imbues new energy yet radiates the same power and timelessness of the original. A nice touch is her decision to substitute a resting female figure on the shore instead of the active male in Church’s painting.
Yesis decided to take on the challenge of honoring the work of Thomas Cole, who was one of Church’s mentors and is considered the founder of the Hudson River School of art that shared the scenic wonders of wilderness with the world. His “View across Frenchman Bay” perfectly captures the interplay of sea and sky that inspired Cole when he painted his “View across Frenchman’s Bay from Mount Desert Island after a Squall.”
Of course, the aforementioned works are not the only ones with an Acadia theme currently hanging at Gallery at Somes Sound. Other artists and works by those above can be found throughout the light and airy spaces.
Furniture makers are well represented as well. David Lamb’s spectacular cabinet “Four Seasons of Acadia” is a masterwork. Along with perfect joinery, the piece includes a hand-carved tableau on the inner door and a uniquely patterned dark veneer exterior in a finish he refers to as “black ice.”
MDI woodworker Joseph Tracy’s distinctive coffee and cocktail tables featuring a vintage island map inset in copper also are on display.
According to Hanson, the show, which runs through the end of October, has been very well received. “People love Acadia and treasure our artists,” she said. “It has been very busy.”
Several of the featured works already have been purchased.
The Acadia Centennial Collection exhibit runs through the end of October.
Next up at the Gallery at Somes Sound is an opening for the next exhibit, “Art and Education in Maine,” on Saturday, Sept. 3, from 5-7 p.m. It celebrates artist educators by highlighting their work alongside the efforts of those they instruct.