Camden Falls Gallery in Camden brings the rugged beauty and artistic culture of Monhegan Island to the mainland through the paintings of Alison Hill and other house artists. The show will run from July 2-22, 2016, with an artists’ reception on July 9 from 4-6pm.
For nearly 200 years, Monhegan Island has inspired countless artists including George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, the Wyeths, Edward Hopper, and Don Stone. Every summer, painters and tourists flock to Monhegan’s rocky coast and spruce forests, transforming the tiny island into a thriving art colony.
Monhegan’s magnetic appeal lies in its ephemeral light—the way it underpaints the cloudbanks and reflects off the island’s unique ground cover. While island life stubbornly resists modernity—maintaining the same winding dirt roads and weather-beaten fish houses now as it did 100 years ago—the island’s changing seasons and light continue to refresh Monhegan’s soul within the texture and color of each scene. “Everywhere you look,” says Alison Hill, “there’s a painting.”
Alison is one of many artists lured to Monhegan by its timeless landscapes, rugged coastline, rustic architecture, and self-reliant islanders. Formerly of Newport, Rhode Island, Alison earned Master’s degrees in Art Therapy and Art Education before choosing to live and paint year-round on Monhegan after her initial visit in 2002. She devotes herself full-time to her island studio/gallery during the summer, and spends winters on Monhegan painting winter landscapes as well as portraits and still-lifes. In 2012, PBS spotlighted her in their video special “The Women Artists of Monhegan Island.” Recently, her works were featured in the movie, “The Congressman.”
Hill captures some of Monhegan’s magic in “Spring Road.” The inviting composition beckons the viewer to meander down a sweet, sunlight path between wild roses and snug island cottages. With masterful handling, Alison creates a dappled pattern of sun and shadow in the foreground. The warmth of the rose underpainting suggests a bucolic landscape suffused with heat. As the path rises and falls, disappearing between verdant hillocks, viewers feel a sense of deep space and mystery.
“Monhegan on the Mainland” features Alison’s work alongside that of other contemporary artists such as Todd Bonita and Stan Moeller, who are renowned for their paintings and workshops on Monhegan, throughout New England and in Europe.
Stan Moeller’s humble self-portrait, “Painter on Monhegan,” underscores the epic role of the natural world in island life. Thick directional strokes of paint in this small painting bring masses of gray granite to the forefront. The deeply shadowed crevices draw the eye further into the piece, where an intrepid painter, the artist himself, looks out to a brightening sea. Along with the artist, the viewer can glimpse the profile of neighboring Manana Island pointing to the horizon, seeming almost to be sailing westward.
Todd Bonita, lauded for his exquisite photorealism, infuses scenes with subtle mystery and melancholy. His oil, “Fish Beach Sunset,” seemingly devoid of human figures, still alludes to the fishermen and women whose lives move in rhythm with the tides and tourists. Late afternoon sun shines underneath the low, looming gray mass of evening clouds and glances off of distant cottage walls. The low vantage point helps create a sense of absence and anticipation. The tide, having receded from the tumbledown stony shore, leaves a linear pattern in the sand—rivulets where small pebbles have been pulled back toward the restless sea. Such precise attention to the natural world is a hallmark of this gifted artist.
The unique vistas of Monhegan Island not only draw artists from all over the world, but more importantly seem to bring forth their strongest efforts. House artists Alison Hill and Stan Moeller were both mentored by Don Stone (1929-2015), the dean of Monhegan contemporary painters. Alison recalls feeling “quite intimidated” by Stone at first, but adds that “he soon became a friend and confidant as well as a teacher and mentor on painting landscapes, and more. He had a way of summing things up in catchy phrases that still go through my mind when I’m painting. I am forever grateful for his guidance and friendship.”
To honor Stone’s vital contributions to the island’s artistic heritage, the Island Inn recently held a memorial gathering with many notable artists in attendance. In addition, Monhegan’s Lupine Gallery and the Island Inn are presenting “Don Stone: A Monhegan Legacy,” with paintings spanning Don’s three-decade career on Monhegan. On display at the Island Inn through Oct. 9, the show also includes the works of 17 other artists (including Stan Moeller and Alison Hill) whose lives and work bear Don’s lasting impressions.
According to Camden Falls Gallery owner Howard Gallagher, “Stan (Moeller), who spoke at Don’s memorial service, will sometimes attach one of Don’s ‘catchy phrases’ to his emails. Don used to say, ‘When you are painting a point of interest, look at the point of interest; when you are painting outside the point of interest, look at the point of interest.’” Adds Gallagher, “Ask any artist what makes painting on Monhegan so special, and invariably, ‘it’s the light’ will be part of their answer.” Experience the light and Don Stone’s Monhegan legacy. Book a trip on the mailboat to visit the island, and if you miss that join us at Camden Falls Gallery for “Monhegan on the Mainland.”
Howard and Margaret Gallagher
Camden Falls Gallery
5 Public Landing
Camden, Maine 04843