Because some of us are still wearing our winter flannel, now seems like a good time for a road trip to see art that looks like spring. We found six opportunities for art, from Ogunquit to Somesville, that will make you want to shed the outerwear, transition to sandals and say goodbye to the lingering chill.
“From the Smallest Leaf,” photographs by Koichiro Kurita, Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., Rockland
Koichiro Kurita was working as a commercial photographer in Tokyo when, at age 40, he quit. “I got very tired of the big-city life, especially the advertising industry,” he said in an interview at the Farnsworth, which is showing his quiet nature photography through Sept. 11.
Now in his 70s, Kurita has pursued fine-art photography for the past three decades, concentrating his attention on what Henry David Thoreau called “the harmonious relationship between nature and humanity.”
Inspired by Thoreau’s “Walden,” Kurita takes photos of the natural landscape where Thoreau traveled, including in Maine, using 19th-century printing techniques. He’s been on this quest since 2011, moving close to Concord, Massachusetts, where Thoreau lived, and following Thoreau’s path to Walden Pond, the Maine woods and beyond. His goal is to give pictorial form to Thoreau’s thoughts and ideas and create a visual narrative of the author’s travels.
The Farnsworth is showing a small selection of photographs, including many from Maine that find moments of stillness in their minimalist wonder.
“The Watershed,” George Mason, and “Living in the Watershed,” Nancy Glassman, Caldbeck Gallery, 12 Elm St., Rockland
Across the street from the Farnsworth, Caldbeck pairs two longtime Maine artists to take a concentrated look at the St. Georges River watershed from different artistic perspectives and expressions. Mason, artist in residence for the Georges River Land Trust, shows relief tapestries in clay that he made during his time on the river and its watershed. Glassman has lived in the watershed since 1982 and painted it in every season.
Her paintings reflect the beauty of the river and its changing character. “Our culture trains us to ignore these things so we can do all the stuff we are supposed to do, like earning money and being responsible adults,” she said. “By nature, I am subversive. I think paying attention to what our bodies are made to respond to is deeply important. I hope my paintings help people do that.”
“Blue Moon,” Patience E. Haley, Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 543 Shore Road, Ogunquit
It’s unfair to call Patience Haley an unknown artist. Great museums across New England own her paintings, including Colby, Smith and the DeCordova. She taught art at Harvard and Bowdoin, and influenced many aspiring painters. But Haley should be better known. To acknowledge her longtime contributions to her community and to the regional art scene, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art opens its season with a small exhibition of her paintings, “Blue Moon.”
She arrived in Ogunquit in the 1940s. Like a lot of artists before and since, she waited tables to support her painting habit. She joined the Ogunquit Art Association in the 1950s, and moved to the town full time in the early 1990s. She is 89, and living in Cape Neddick.
Her work is bright, hopeful. Our favorite is “Reflections, 3 Vases,” a watercolor from 1986. It’s a loose, dripping portrayal of flower bouquets, oozing with the promise of sun.
Matthew Russ, Portland Art Gallery, 154 Middle St., Portland
Matthew Russ paints outdoors in Maine in all seasons. Through May 29, Portland Art Gallery shows a collection of paintings that take viewers on a visual tour of Maine. Russ, who lives in Waterville, enjoys painting in Maine’s protected lands — the Kennebec Highlands, the Morse Mountain Conservation Area and Camden Hills State Park among others.
His island paintings have authority. He returns again and again, to paint the islands – Richmond, Monhegan – in their changing colors and shifting moods. He makes you want to go, to find a way over the water and explore the beaches and cliffs and the lollygag trails that lead not only to discovery and beauty, but to that place in our collective soul that compels us live here.
Sandra Goroff, Gallery at Somes Sound, 1112 Main St., Somesville
Sandra Goroff discovered Maine in her late 30s, about the same time she discovered photography. She rented a house on the marsh side of Wells Beach, and was captivated by the light and the changing colors of the day. “Always, the great pleasure of being there was the light on the marsh. I started walking and taking more and more photos and being interested in the space in between things,” said Goroff, who lives in Massachusetts.
The Gallery at Somes Sound picked up her work this spring. The gallery opens for the season May 15.
Her photographs set a calming tone, because they ask us appreciate the importance of place in our lives and the role of nature in shaping that place. A favorite thing to do is riding around the Maine countryside as a passenger in a car. She’s become skilled at shouting quick instructions for her driver to pull over, so she can assess a scene for its photo-worthiness.
She was riding in Lebanon a few years ago when she saw a pair of skis propped against a tree. A tree limb supported a rope and tire swing. There was something about the innocence and timeless of the scene that made her feel very glad to be there. This past winter, Goroff donated a print of tire swing photograph to the Boston Children’s Hospital.
David C. Driskell, “The Doorway Portfolio, ” Bates College Museum of Art , 75 Russell St., Lewiston
The pathway to nature leads through an open door. As we make the passage from interior to exterior, we shed the constraints of containment and open ourselves up to an unbound world. With a dozen serigraphs and 12 pages of handset letterpress prose, the artist David Driskell and the writer Michael Alpert collaborate on a walk, real or imagined, from one place to another.
Theirs is both a spiritual and material journey, with images and words that directly conjure the spiritual pull of the pine tree and the forest.
Driskell is a part-time Mainer, and alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. In late April in New York, he received Skowhegan’s Lifetime Legacy Award, with an introduction by Portland Museum of Art director Mark Bessire. Alpert is director of the University of Maine Press, and a photographer. Their collaborative project is on view through Aug. 27.