Belfast artist Linden Frederick shows his “Night Stories” series of paintings at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, following a successful run of the show at Frederick’s New York gallery in the spring. The exhibition begins with a ticketed fundraising gala for the CMCA gallery on Friday night and opens to the public on Saturday.
“Night Stories” includes 15 36-by-36-inch oil-on-canvas paintings of low-light landscapes of rural America. Frederick captures images of homes, businesses and buildings at dusk, that time of melancholy between daylight and night that is filled with mystery and apprehension.
For this body of work, Frederick teamed with 15 authors, who completed the paintings by writing short stories and movie scenes that stemmed from Frederick’s imagery. Their stories, as well as the paintings, are collected in a book published in tandem with the exhibition, also called “Night Stories.” The book won’t be officially released until the fall, but will be for sale at CMCA.
Frederick’s highly realistic and detailed paintings have always been popular with writers, because the work is lyrical and full of suggested narratives. There are people in his paintings, even though we never see them. Their presence is suggested by the light that emanates from their living room windows, the headlights of their cars and the neon business signs that cut sharp against the failing daylight.
These paintings, as well as smaller studies that Frederick made in preparation for the final work, hung at Forum Gallery in New York in the spring. At CMCA, director Suzette McAvoy is hanging only the large paintings, because Frederick shipped the smaller ones to the writers as compensation for their words.
He worked with accomplished literary collaborators, thanks to his friendship with Portland writer Richard Russo. Well connected in the literary world, Russo appealed to many of his writer friends. The list of contributors includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, an Oscar winner and a Newbery Medal winner: Russo, Anthony Doerr, Elizabeth Strout, Ted Tally and Lois Lowry. Other literary contributors include Tess Gerritsen, Lily King, Andre Dubus III and Dennis Lehane.
“This is a great opportunity to show an exhibition that is going to really appeal to a broad audience, both from the art standpoint and literary standpoint,” McAvoy said. “I’m also really interested in the idea of the paintings coming first and not being an illustration for the writer. Rather than the reverse of that, these painting are providing the inspiration for the writer,” she said.
McAvoy hopes that people who see the show will think about the idea of art inspiring other art and that art can be “a jumping off point for their own curiosity of the world. That’s the core of what we do here at CMCA, which is helping people learn to look at the world in a new way.”
Frederick has enjoyed this show. Critics have responded favorably, and he’s received a lot of national press. He’s also sold several paintings. But mostly, it’s been fun talking with people about the art. People are curious about the paintings and ask a lot of questions, he said.
“Everybody seems to think it was a good idea,” he said. “I’ve always found it interesting how a lot of writers responded in a positive way to my paintings over the years. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could have a collaborative show where a writer writes a story based on a picture, rather than the other way around?’ ”
He is doing several gallery talks in conjunction with the exhibition. The first is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29. He’ll chat with Gerritsen from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 17 and with Russo from 3 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 22.
“We’re just going to chitchat about each painting and tell some stories, talk about my motivation and things like that,” he said. “I prefer those to standing up lecturing in a static crowd or even with slides. This is more relaxed. I can just walk along and talk about the pictures.”
Frederick is taking a break from painting. He’s renovated his studio, moving what he calls his “gentleman’s woodshop” to the main floor and his painting studio into an expanded space upstairs. He’s been building violins and cellos for several years and finds the work rewarding.
“It’s very important to me, and it’s a balance for painting,” he said. “Going forward, I am doing both. I am just taking a break from panting to recharge the batteries. I have a show incubating in my mind.”
WHERE: Center for Maine Contemporary Art, 21 Winter St., Rockland
WHEN: Fundraising gala on Friday, show opens on Saturday, on view through Nov. 5
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
ADMISSION: $8, $6 seniors, free 18 and younger
SUMMER GALA DETAILS: Friday’s party is a fundraiser for CMCA and costs $250 for non-members.