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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 7, 2018

For its season-opening exhibition, the Ogunquit Museum takes a broad look at Narrow Cove

Written by: Bob Keyes

No matter the art on the wall, Narrow Cove is almost always the first thing you see when you walk into the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. It’s the cove right in front of the museum, and is the image of rocks and water – and often boats under sail or power – that is framed by the museum’s ocean-side glass wall.

For its 65th season, the museum has re-imagined its Barn Gallery for “The View from Narrow Cove,” an examination of the art colonies that thrived in Ogunquit before the museum opened in 1953 and the artists they inspired. The exhibition represents a deep dive into the museum’s permanent collection, and includes many pieces of art that haven’t been on view, many by contemporary Maine artists who are part of the Ogunquit community through their association with the museum.

Museum director Michael Mansfield and his staff have constructed a series of temporary walls in the gallery, creating more wall space for the art, and painted the walls the color of eggplant. The art is hung salon-style, filling the gallery with an Ogunquit narrative that is told by the artists who have painted her or whose work is represented in the collection. The exhibition, on view throughout the season, includes about 80 works of art, and all but two are from the museum’s collection.

The show celebrates the magnet of Ogunquit and highlights the contributions of Charles Woodbury, who was the first artist to come to Narrow Cove in 1888, and Hamilton Easter Field, who came in 1903. They both established art schools, and began what remains an annual trek of artists, sightseers and sunbathers to the cove and its environs, Mansfield said.

“This is a show that celebrates the artists in and around Ogunquit from the late 1800s to the present. It’s a show about a community of artists working together,” Mansfield said. “As we began digging through everything in the collection, we were really energized by the exhibition and we wanted to put up a lot of work.”

It is wide in scope, and hung not chronologically but thematically to inspire conversations among art and artists spanning generations, styles and themes. The show is grouped generally around the themes of “An Artist’s Paradise” that celebrates the beauty of the place; “The Ogunquit Art Colony,” which presents the artists who were drawn to Ogunquit in the early- and mid-20th centuries; and “Celebrating 65 Years,” which goes deep into the permanent collection.

In this configuration, the exhibition is broad enough to make room for black-and-white drawings of household objects by installation artist Amy Stacey Curtis and colorful flowers by Beverly Hallam. There are richly layered seaside paintings of cod drying by Maurice Freedman, dories in the cove by Hamilton Easter Field and a painting of Ogunquit in the winter by Woodbury. There’s a sweet watercolor of boys playing by DeWitt Hardy, a scene of bathers on the rocks by Abe Walkowitz and a dark gouache by Dozier Bell.

Many of the big names of modernism and Maine are here, too: Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Rockwell Kent and Will Barnet.

The two pieces on loan are portraits of Woodbury and Field. The Woodbury portrait is by Hermann Murphy, on loan by a private collector, and the Field painting is a self-portrait, on loan from the Portland Museum of Art.

“The View from Narrow Cove” is among four-season opening exhibitions at the museum. Also on view is ‘Steve Hawley: Studio Light,” which presents a survey of paintings by the New England painter, including highly realistic female nudes and abstract seascapes; “This Side of Paradise: American Artists of the Paris Salon”; and “Surrounded: Sampling Burchfield’s Wallpaper,” which shows the decorative work of the painter Charles Burchfield.

‘THE VIEW FROM NARROW COVE’

WHERE: Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 543 Shore Road, Ogunquit
WHEN: On view through Oct. 31; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
ADMISSION: $10 adults, $9 seniors and students, 11 and younger free
INFO: ogunquitmuseum.org or 207-646-4909

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