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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: August 5, 2015

Elena Jahn exhibition opens in Portland

Written by: Bob Keyes

Lisa Jahn-Clough was looking for an angel when Bonnie Faulkner offered her wings.

After her mother died late last fall, Jahn-Clough desperately wanted to find a gallery in Maine to show her mother’s artwork. Elena Jahn was a longtime and much-loved Monhegan artist but hadn’t shown her work for many years because of declining health.

A mutual friend introduced Jahn-Clough to Faulkner, who runs Heron Point Gallery at 63 Market St. in Portland. Together, they’re presenting “Elena Jahn: A Collection of Life Work,” opening Friday as part of Portland’s First Friday Art Walk.

“It’s bittersweet,” Jahn-Clough said last week, when she met with Faulkner to install the exhibition. “I had looked into doing a show a few years ago without telling her. We knew she wasn’t going to live much longer, and I thought it would be great to do a final show. But that never materialized. This feels like a way I can honor her. She had a lot of work, and it deserves to be seen.”

Jahn was a prolific and versatile artist. She traveled and painted all over the world but always came home to Monhegan. The exhibition at Heron Point will include paintings that Jahn completed over 60 years. They include oils, pastels, watercolors, collages and mixed-media paintings. Heron Point is also showing several large painted folding panels of Monhegan, which have been in storage in Cape Elizabeth for many years.

The show is bright and colorful.

“I think what I appreciate most about her work is the energy,” Faulkner said. “You can see her passion in her work. This show is a celebration of her as an artist.”

Jahn died last November in Brunswick at age 76. She is best known as a figurative painter, and the Portland show will include many examples from that genre. There are landscapes and abstract paintings from Monhegan as well as her winter home in Puerto Rico. Wherever she painted – her locations ranged across Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean – her worked evoked a sense of place and human emotion, her daughter said. While the landscapes are vastly different, the paintings from Monhegan and Puerto Rico are similar in that they convey the artist’s reaction to the scenery and humanity.

“A lot of artists on Monhegan do the cliffs,” Jahn-Clough said, “and she did those, too. She has hundreds of sketches of Whitehead. But she didn’t just want to do those. She loved people and she was interested in the light and how the light played on the water and the rocks. She just loved the water. She needed to be near the water.”

Jahn’s attraction to the water was curious, her daughter said. She was born in upstate New York and went to college at Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin. But after her first summer on Monhegan at age 11, there was never any question where her mother would spend most of her time, Jahn-Clough said.

“That was always home,” she said.

The Portland Museum of Art showed Jahn’s work in 1991. The Heron Point show will be the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of her art in many years, Faulker said.

ELENA JAHN: A COLLECTION OF LIFE WORK

WHERE: Heron Point Gallery, 63 Market St., Portland
WHEN: Opens Friday, on view through Sept. 30. First Friday Art Walk reception, 5 to 8 p.m. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
INFO: 207-846-0817 or heronpointstudio.com

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