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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: March 31, 2017

Nancy Kureth comes out of hiding with a play and 100 small paintings

Written by: Bob Keyes
Photo of Nancy Kureth with one of her small landscape paintings from "Vignettes." Photo by Erin Thomas

Photo of Nancy Kureth with one of her small landscape paintings from “Vignettes.”
Photo by Erin Thomas

After a self-imposed, yearlong withdrawal, artist Nancy Kureth has emerged with 100 new paintings and a play about an artist’s life.

She will present both beginning this weekend at Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St. The art show goes up as part of Portland First Friday Art Walk, and the one-woman play, “Vignettes,” begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and repeats at 7 p.m. April 15. The paintings will be on view from 5 to 9 p.m. both performance nights.

Kureth wrote and produced the play, with Carrie Vinette and John Bryson acting and directing, respectively. Todd Perry narrates.

The burst of creativity followed the sale of Kureth’s home and studio in Biddeford and her decision to buy land in Lyman, where she tore down an existing structure and began building her new home. As the new house was going up — the work continues — she lived on Peaks Island last winter and spent the warm months camping in a tent. She’s now living at Ocean Park, where she can hear the water from her door.

The nomadic lifestyle coincided with a social media blackout. By tuning out, she was able to tap into and harness a focused burst of creative energy. “I’m trying to make every day delicious,” she said. “Every day is an art vacation.”

Kureth considers herself hard-working. It’s part of growing up in Michigan, “where if you say you’re employed, that’s a high-five.” Her new body of work represents “the hardest I’ve ever worked,” she said.

Living on Peaks fed her desire to write. Watching the moon from the ferry inspired her to jot everything down. She ended up not with a memoir — “It’s way more interesting than that,” she said — but with a series of vignettes based on her life as an artist. These are everyday observations, infused with wry insight. She turns mundane moments into funny riffs.

Because she was on the move, Kureth painted small. Her studio was a dresser drawer. She refused to allow her circumstances to inhibit her desire to paint. “If you’re not doing what you love, you’re making excuses. Things that seem adverse can give you new life and new perspective,” she said.

Landscape painting by Nancy Kureth, from her "Vignettes" series. Photo by Erin Thomas

Landscape painting by Nancy Kureth, from her “Vignettes” series.
Photo by Erin Thomas

The paintings, which she is also showing under the name “Vignettes,” are quick snapshots of her mood and life, and serve as a visual companion to the play. There are many bright abstract landscapes, with colors layered on colors, and realistically rendered images of beautiful places. She painted in the early mornings and early evenings, when the colors often are most intense. In all, she is showing 100 small paintings, 6-by-6 inches or smaller.

“These paintings are all about being fed and being around these gorgeous places,” Kureth said, noting the presence of pink in many of her works. “I’m such a tom girl. If I can get pink in my paintings, it’s a success,” she said.

Nancy Kureth, “Vignettes”

WHEN: Show opens from 5 to 9 p.m. for First Friday Art Walk; also on view 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday and April 15; play begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and April 15.
WHERE: Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St., Portland
TICKETS: $10 for the play;

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