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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: May 19, 2014

Debra Yoo paintings on exhibit at UNE Biddeford campus through May 31

Written by: Bob Keyes

Debra Yoo’s first impression of Maine was spectacular. She came as a visitor from the Midwest, and during a drive from southern Maine to Acadia National Park she stopped in Tenants Harbor.

“The light just hit me,” she said, tapping into an allure that has captivated painters for centuries. “The color and the rocks and the color of the water just astounded me.”

She came back for a painter’s residency a few years later and got a different impression. The first three days of her June retreat were wet and foggy and cold. She shivered as she slept. But then the weather broke, and the rest of her week was spectacular.

She vowed to move here someday – a vow she kept when she relocated from Illinois to Maine in 1996.Nearly 20 years later, Yoo is an established Portland painter with a long history of gallery exhibitions, though it’s been nearly three years since she has shown her work locally. That drought ends this month, as Yoo exhibits a small selection of work at Campus Center at the University of New England in Biddeford.

Yoo, who teaches painting workshops, makes oil paintings that are notable for their color, light and strong compositional lines. The paintings in this show are forest scenes, coastal architecture, rocky views of the ocean and flowers. Most of her subjects come from her annual visit to Monhegan Island. “Monhegan is bouillon cube of Maine. You get it all there,” she said.

Her paintings are based on texture and gesture. She is known for using strong, distinct colors on her surfaces. The rocks sometimes look a darkish purple. The roofing shingles on her structures feel pink, and her trees are a dense mix of orange, brown and blue.

“I don’t try to exaggerate my colors,” she said. “I do have certain pigments I favor, but it’s just what I see.”
Yoo keeps a studio in the State Theatre building in Portland, and often paints on location outdoors. She juggles her painting with her professional work at a financial planning office, though she is quick to add, “Painting is my career and always has been my career.”

She teaches painting at the University of Southern Maine and Maine College of Art. From July 6-11, she will teach a workshop, “Examining Your Painting Process,” at Rock Gardens Inn at Sebasco Estates in Phippsburg. In a teaching setting, she describes herself as the Dr. Phil of landscape painting. She helps students break bad habits, challenging them, “How’s that working out for you?”

Her primary hope for the show in Biddeford is that visitors take the time to look closely at her work. She wants them to notice her brush strokes, color choices and compositional decisions. It’s the difference between browsing and really looking, she said.

“I think people are forgetting how to look. I think our technology has made us lazy. I see people standing in front of a painting, looking for about five seconds and then taking a picture. I think they spend more time looking at the picture they’ve taken than the actual painting. Just spend some time and really look.”

DEBRA YOO AT UNE
WHERE: Campus Center, 11 Hills Beach Road, Biddeford
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday through May 31
HOW MUCH: Free
INFO: debrayoo.com

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