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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: April 6, 2016

‘Portland Show’ at Greenhut Galleries continues a Portland tradition

Written by: Bob Keyes

A native Portlander, Tom Hall appreciates Congress Square as the core of the city, a hub and spokes with essential public space and stunning historic buildings.

Front and center is the Portland Museum of Art, built in 1983. It’s the masterpiece of architect Henry Cobb, Hall says, and “certainly the most significant building built in Portland in the last 100 years.”

Hall’s silhouette of the museum, “November Nocturne,” is a highlight of the “Portland Show” biennial at Greenhut Galleries in Portland, on view through April 30. Hall’s textured, mixed-media canvas shows the light of a fall sky streaming through Cobb’s half-moon cutouts atop the PMA’s brick facade. Shadows cast Congress Square in an urban gray. The painting evokes the mood and movement of the city, while preserving an iconic image of its best new building.

The Greenhut show features the work of 48 artists invited by the gallery to interpret Portland with paintings and three-dimensional pieces. The work includes cityscapes and street scenes, landscapes and sea views and abstract ruminations. Many of Maine’s best-known artists are participating. The opening is 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Gallery owner Peggy Golden began the tradition in 2002 to celebrate her 25th year in business. It was a small show, on view in the back of Greenhut’s Middle Street gallery, and included artists represented by the gallery. Two years later, Greenhut expanded the show to the entire gallery and invited other artists. This is her eighth biennial invitational, and this year it marks her 40th year in business.

“I wanted to do something that celebrated Portland,” Golden said. “I love Portland. It’s been very good to me, and artists like painting here.”

The exhibition has become a Maine art tradition, said Yarmouth painter Ann Mohnkern. She stopped in the gallery last week to drop off an oil-on-panel painting of the Casco Bay Bridge for the show.

Mohnkern has exhibited her work many years and is represented by another Portland gallery. Being part of the “Portland Show,” she said, brings a different kind of art-world acceptance. “If there was ever a sign of making it, it would be to participate in this show,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’ve been a patron of Greenhut for decades, and this is the show you always look forward to seeing.”

Among the artists showing this year are David Driskell, Marshal Donahue, Henry Isaacs, Daniel Minter, Sarah Knock, Jeff Bye and Thomas Connolly.

Donahue, who worked at Greenhut when the show began and now operates her own gallery in Millinocket, made a painting looking toward the Eastern Prom from the parking lot of a sandwich shop. It’s a gritty, urban scene with graffiti, brick and the brilliance of sunlight splashed on a row of houses that stand beyond.

For Donahue, the painting evokes a sense of the old Portland she once knew. Donahue arrived in the city in 1968, when there were still remnants of an early-20th century fishing port. “Portland is a dynamic city and will always move forward with the promise of evolving structures and new identity,” she writes in her artist statement, “but will always carry with it the past, rooted in brick.”

Isaacs offers views of the Back Cove and the Eastern Prom in the rain. These paintings are a result of Isaacs’ roaming around the city with painting materials in a backpack. He lives in the West End, and enjoys walking the near-length of the peninsula for painting excursions. On rainy days, he paints under the cover of the bandstand.

His images show Portland under shifting skies, sunlight breaking through the clouds and casting heavy shadows on the water, which is populated with ferries and moored boats that Isaacs arranges and rearranges through long afternoons of painting, walking and more painting.

Connolly brings us back to the sidewalks. He tells the Portland story with images of its bones – the buildings that have stood the test of the times: The LaFayette and Hay, and a street full of brick and mortar in the Old Port. “These buildings of Portland have become part of our social fabric and have accompanied us through countless years,” he writes. “There is no doubt that many people care about them. I admire the pride and hard work that went into their design and construction.”


‘PORTLAND SHOW’

WHERE: Greenhut Galleries, 146 Middle St., Portland
WHEN: Through April 30; reception 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday
INFO: greenhutgalleries.com or 772-2693


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