Off the Coast: Landscape Chronology

Collection Gallery, June 14, 2005 – May 30, 2006

Throughout the world Maine is celebrated as a place of great natural beauty draped in exquisite light. Maine enjoys a deep and long artistic tradition best known through the work of “the male” artists such as Marsden Hartley, Ansel Adams, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and Paul Strand, whose visits to the state created an enduring, picturesque archetype of Maine and Maine art. Today, a growing and diversifying number of artists are changing how people “from away” perceive the state. No longer solely a destination to visit to make inspired art, Maine has become a place where more and more contemporary artists live and work. This exhibition deconstructs the historical paradigm of New England and Maine while exploring innovations in contemporary landscape art.

Neil Welliver, Light in Brook, 1985 oil on canvas Gift of Dorothy Stiles Blankfort, Class of 1931

Like Hartley, whose provocative and often unpicturesque images of Maine defied mid-century convention, contemporary artists are challenging the subject matter, techniques and presentation popularly associated with Maine art. Off the Coast: A Landscape Chronology demonstrates that there is more to Maine than the rockbound coastline Homer made famous. Indeed, the unique and varied landscape of inland Maine has been a popular, if less visible, subject since the 19th century, and many examples of this interest are found at the Bates College Museum of Art.

Contemporary artists are changing the local and global perception of the artistic traditions of Maine, which is less and less based on the beauty of the state and more on its innovative spirit and the clarity provided by its light and environment. Ironically these artists, such as the photographers Elke Morris and Ellen Lesperance – recent additions to the museum’s collection – are spiritually more aligned with the unpicturesque and provocative Maine of Marsden Hartley: the backbone and spine of the Museum collection. Guided by Hartley’s challenging and creative tradition, the museum continues to build on its core collection of Maine artists.

Visit the Off the Coast website for in-depth information and images.