Growing up with the rocks, forests and coves of the coast Maine as her playground, Wendy Turner understood from a very early age that she lived in a beautiful place.
She grew up on a house on a hill on Cutts Island, which is connected to the town by a bridge. It felt pretty far away, especially in the winter when few people lived there. She remembers sitting on the porch watching storms roll in and waves crashing, fog obscuring everything in view.
“As kids, that island was ours, our place, more than the actual house we lived in or the land that went with it,” said Turner, who still lives in Kittery Point, but in a different home. “I always felt I was part of the rocks, winds, waves and sky. Like a lot of people, I feel the most myself when I am by myself in nature.”
Turner, 61, is showing 35 years of mostly Maine paintings this summer at Discover Portsmouth in New Hampshire, just across the river from her home. “Island Light” tells Turner’s lifelong love affair with nature, which has informed her paintings and made her one of New England’s finest interpreters of the coast.
The exhibition is a retrospective, with watercolors, oils and pastels of coast scenes, particularly the southern coast of Kittery and the Isles of Shoals, as well as dozens of florals and garden scenes. The exhibition includes 130 paintings.
Turner has many places she likes to paint, but has to know a place well before she starts to paint it. She has been going to Brave Boat Harbor near her home for 55 years. Her earliest drawings were from the cove when she was five or six. “This may sound weird,” she said, “but there are rocks there that feel like old friends.”
She’s been going to Appledore for 20 years. Her deep knowledge of place informs her work. Turner paints with authority and authenticity that comes from familiarity. She’s lived in many places — California for six years, Arizona and Florida. She came back to Maine in 1981.
She loved Maine as a kid and appreciates it more now.
“I always joke that, when they make you learn the Maine state song in fourth grade, they get you for life. It is an amazingly beautiful place,” she said.
WHERE: Discover Portsmouth, 10 Middle St., Portsmouth, New Hampshire
WHEN: On view through Sept. 30; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 8 p.m. Fridays
ADMISSION: Free, donations accepted