The dog was interested in the man.
Paws extended, cautious and curious, the coyote danced on the edge of interaction, eying the human who sat in the midst of the coyote’s pen.
Michael Boardman made quick, gestural marks on his sketchpad with a charcoal pencil, but otherwise sat still as the sharp-eyed trickster circled. The artist observed, locking in with eye contact, and added a line or flourish to his drawing.
“He interacted with me a little bit. He was checking me out,” Boardman said, recalling his experience inside the coyote pen at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.
Boardman turned those sketches into watercolor paintings portraying a predator he has long admired.
Three of his coyote paintings are on view in an exhibition that opens today, “Coyote Connections,” at the Art Gallery at the University of New England in Portland. The exhibition includes about 100 works of art in a variety of media by dozens of Maine artists and coincides with the gallery’s annual sculpture invitational on the gallery grounds.
Many well-known artists contributed work.
West Bath watercolor painter Evelyn Dunphy painted a pair of coyotes, noses high in the night, howling under a starry sky.
Berwick painter Richard Brown Lethem explored the coyote’s connection to spirituality and native lore.
Bath painter Linda Murray, known for her exploration of trees, made a large painting of a hallowed tree with a coyote hiding in the recess in the trunk.
"The Watcher" by Michael Boardman.
Before making his paintings, artist Michael Boardman completed a series of sketches of coyotes, left. Above right, Carole Whelan’s “Coyote Mousing.” Below, “Skyote” by Gwen Sylvester.
Sandra Crowell “Open Season.”
Carole Whelan “Coyote Mousing.”
A field sketch by Michael Boardman of a coyote and turkeys in Blue Hill.
Gwen Sylvester “Skyote.”
Boardman makes his living designing and painting wildlife illustrations for Coyote Graphics, a Maine company that makes T-shirts, cards and prints. He is a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and uses illustrations to make accessible scientific concepts like evolution and biodiversity.
“I’ve always been interested in coyotes and predators in general, and how predators often lurk on the edge of the wild,” Boardman said. “Coyotes thread that needle between the wilderness and our backyards. You rarely see them, but you often hear them.”
The gallery borders Evergreen Cemetery, off Stevens Avenue. For the 16 years she has worked there, gallery director Anne Zill has heard coyotes howling whenever the wind blows from the north. “They’ve been singing to me for years,” she said.
That chorus inspired the show, she said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
She put out the call for art, and dozens of artists responded.
Zill co-curated the exhibition with biologist Geri Vistein.
Writing about the exhibition, Vistein said that coyotes have reclaimed their range in Maine. As they have become a growing presence in the state, the animals have reconnected with the land, their food supply, other wildlife and humans.
In Maine, coyotes are subject to hunting. It’s open season on coyotes year-round.
“This exhibition is meant to inspire, but also educate deep in the crevices of our spirits, where we experience and honor those connections that are important to the essence of who we are,” Vistein wrote.
American Indians have long revered the coyote for its wisdom and wily nature. In many Native cultures, the coyote serves as the trickster character of folklore.
In this show, many artists explore the native connections. Others portray the animal in relationship with the environment.
The paintings, sculpture and fabric work on view capture the coyote’s playful nature and its ability to feel pain and express joy. Other work explores the tension that exists among the animals, urban dwellers and farmers.
WHEN: Through Jan. 15; 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; open until 7 p.m. Thursdays
WHERE: Art Gallery at UNE, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland
HOW MUCH: Free
INFO: 207-221-4499 or une.edu/artgallery
ARTISTS: Susan Amons, Donna Asmussen, Michael Boardman, Mary Brennan, Sandra Crowell, Squidge Davis, Evelyn Dean, Evelyn Dunphy, Kathleen Fox, Anne Garland, Melissa Glendinning, Gretchen Halpert, Forest Hart, Carolyn Heasly, Glenn Hines, Janice Kasper, Richard Brown Lethem, Jacqueline Malony, Mark McCollough, Judith Mitchell, Leslie Moore, Linda Murray, Jean Noon, Mary Beth Owens, Rebekah Raye, Jessica Rhys, Linda Shepard, Elizabeth Starr, Gwen Sylvester, Lisa Tremblay, Helen Warren and Carole Whelan.
RECEPTION: 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9
PROGRAMS: 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Montsweag Musicians, “The Music of the Wild and Free – Coyote”
5 p.m. Oct. 23, Cynthia Simon, “Encounters with Coyotes: One Woman’s Journey
1 p.m. Oct. 26, Songdog Puppeteers: “Coyote and the Boy Ben” puppet show
5 p.m. Nov. 5, Conservation biologist and co-curator Geri Vilstein, “Coyote – America’s Songdog”