Jeff Toman’s small steel sculpture “Damascus Cuff" is part of the annual MDI Open art show at Shaw Jewelry in Northeast Harbor through June 11. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Open season on art at Sam Shaw’s

It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a spring day than by taking a shore walk with the dog or a friend in the morning, working in the garden in the afternoon and attending an art show in the evening. And, oh, if there happen to be precious jewels somewhere in the mix, so much the better.

“Prayer for All Things,” a painting by Deborah Page. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

The opening reception at the MDI Open art show at Shaw Jewelry in Northeast Harbor provided the evening entertainment on just such a day last Thursday.

The 18th annual MDI Open features more than 40 local artists. The show will be on display through June 11. As usual, this exhibition is an eclectic selection of paintings, photographs, fabric art and sculptures created by MDI’s professional artists and talented amateurs.

The latter were charmingly represented by a wood sculpture of Northeast Harbor and its resident lobster boats carved and painted by Lee Neary. While not a polished piece, it was a cheerful greeting as one walked through the front door.

Another pleasure that was immediately noticeable was how well this show was hung by Sam Shaw’s staff, who took the time to find compatible, complementary works to share space on the walls.

A cluster of figure drawings and portraits — Erika Rosso’s Zen-like portrait of a sleeping “Elizabeth,” Diane Abatemarco’s fun little ink cartoon of “Svea” clearly contemplating something delightful, Nicole DeSimone’s handsome oil portrait of a “Lady in White” and the master Judy Taylor’s nostalgic homage to “Moxie.”

Individually, these were great pieces, but together they formed an instant, if somewhat oddball, family.

Several small fabric art pieces also were enhanced by one another’s company. Linda Martin’s jellyfish-like mobile called “Drifters” paired well with Jessica Harris’ brilliant felted skyscape and Leanne Nickon’s small fabric collage “Farewell Sudan” honoring a large vanished animal, the white rhino. Just about every year, the multitalented Nickon brings something completely new to this venue, and it’s always fun to see where her peripatetic mind has taken her.

Another impressive fabric piece was Michelle McCann’s knitted seat cover “Gifted.” This is essentially a sweater set she created for a delicately carved antique armchair, demonstrating not only a deeply creative mind, but expert needle skills involving cable stitching and some stunning effects she may have invented herself.


The painters of our island community at large were well represented by both familiar artists and some newcomers. Beth Lambert’s impressionist landscape “Big Sky” was immediately recognizable for its lovely pastel palette and harmonious composition. Deborah Page’s “Prayer for All Things” is an exuberant and colorful blend of various folk-art themes resulting in a visual story reminiscent of a Chagall.

Shaw’s own offering, “The Good Idea Launched,” appears to be a self-portrait at the moment inspiration strikes and rises rapturously into the sky. And yes, that is exactly what such a moment feels like.

The subjects of Robert S. Jay’s works are ubiquitous around these parts — seascapes, pastorals, woodsy paths and, as in his acrylic “Foggy Morning,” lobster boats moored in a quiet harbor. But Jay has the precious ability to paint tranquility. His balanced composition, somewhat muted palette and gentle lighting, a softness to his lines, even in the details, just ooze peacefulness, a feeling that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”

It’s always fun to see what Linda Rowell-Kelley is up to, and right now it’s nuns. Her “Wings on their Feet” is a sweet scene of nuns in habits taking a delicious whirl on the ice. Barbara Strubell’s “A Little Piece of Woods” is another familiar scene nicely rendered.

And speaking of nicely rendered, Robert F. Pennington’s watercolor of a strange little brick edifice in the woods, “The Pump House,” is so delicately rendered it easily could be mistaken for a graphite drawing.

Another case of mistaken identity is Lisa Clark’s unexpectedly wonderful “Eagle Lake Power Station.” Unexpected because who would have thought a roadside power station would make a good subject for a landscape? And unexpected because at a distance it looks like a black-and-white photograph with the station and attendant telephone poles and trees silhouetted against a pearly evening sky. But come closer, and it reveals itself as a charcoal drawing and not even a fussy, superrealist one. Step back, and it’s a photo again. Go figure.

There is so much more here that makes a trip to Northeast Harbor while the exhibition is up a good use of one’s time. Cristiane Cullens’ crows and pomegranates, Jeff Toman’s small steel sculpture “Damascus Cuff,” France Hilbert’s winter scene of a backyard viewed from an upstairs window, Gaia Deboer’s and Kathleen Hall’s riotous wildflowers, Nina St. Germain’s enchanting lino print of roses, Liz Cutler’s translucent bowls, Katherine Churchill’s still life of sunflowers, Lois Leavenworth’s seascape with billowy N.C. Wyeth clouds … . Well, just go.

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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