Walking Into Nature Through A Painting

I recently enjoyed reading this New York Times article, 
How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

It provoked a further thought: if visualization is an important tool for an athlete's training (as studies show it is) could paintings serve as tools to visualize ourselves walking through nature, similar to the photos, videos, and daydreaming used by athletes, and therefore provide "brain training" opportunities in the places and times when physically getting outside is not possible?
I'll be thinking about this...

Beehive Backside,  5" x 7" Acadia painting headed to Courthouse Gallery Fine Art for an August 12th opening.

Beehive Backside, 5" x 7" Acadia painting headed to Courthouse Gallery Fine Art for an August 12th opening.

Looking For Samoset & Look Who's The Newest Contributor to The American Guide

I'm super psyched that I get to contribute to The American Guide blog on a regular basis; look for my posts every month or so. Editor Brett Klein (who just moved to Maine himself) invited me to be a "Maine Guide" for AG and my first submission of ten paintings, an excerpt from the original Depression-era guidebooks, and a short reflection was published last week. I was inspired by my regular trips to Monhegan and a deepening interest in Maine's pre-Colonial history.

More about AG:

THE AMERICAN GUIDE is a revival of the Depression-era guidebook series by the same name. It’s part archive curation from back in the day, part documentary travel in the here and now. It’s here to keep a state by state record of an America coming out of the Great Recession and beyond: to document people and places both pretty and hard because, all things being equal, that’s what makes America, America.

The original guide series was produced by a community of regional writers, photographers, and artists — locals documenting their home states. THE AMERICAN GUIDE is where today’s mediamakers for all things American will be found, cultivated, and promoted. A/G has a crack team of 60 city, state and regional guides from all points North, South, East and West. And, like the guides before them, they are folks telling stories they know. A/G contributing organizations include: American Student Radio, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Bureau of Land Management, Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, LBJ Presidential Library, Lucid Inc., The Moth, and The Paris ReviewA/G is featured in both the History and Travel categories on Tumblr with a following of over 160,000 folks and climbing. Click here for more on The American Guide team; click here to become an American Guide; or click here to submit a dispatch from your state.

LOOKING FOR SAMOSET — Monhegan Island, Maine

New Harbor was the home of Samoset, the Indian who, in March 1621, startled the Pilgrims of Plymouth by appearing among them with the words, “Much welcome, Englishmen.” He explained that he was a sachem and had learned the language from Englishmen engaged in fishing off Monhegan…. On his next visit he brought with him Squando, who became a friend of the settlers. Chief Samoset was a magnificent figure, tall and straight, his body naked save for a loin cloth. The advice of these Indians enabled the Pilgrims to replenish their dwindling stores, a friendly act that was later repaid with treachery.  -Maine: A Guide ‘Down East’ (WPA, 1937)


I ride the ferry from New Harbor to Monhegan Island, tracing a well-worn journey over waters once so plentiful that early explorers kept knowledge of them shrouded in mystery. When no hope of protecting the secret of these fishing grounds was left, a lighthouse was built on Monhegan to show everyone their way. Today I land on the island and hike up to and past this lighthouse, marching through rugged woods to the tallest cliffs on the coast of Maine. The wind here whips up a wildness and a searching in anyone who stands looking… looking… for the secret that was lost with Samoset.


Editor’s note: Jessica’s artistic submission is the first since we’ve put the call out for more artistic contributions to The American Guide, as alternatives to the photos we so often feature. You can read more about the WPA’s Federal Art Project and our recent invitation to submit work here.


Looking Forward To Monhegan

Last week I submitted my application for the 2015 Monhegan Artist's Residency. This past winter I've been busy painting from the experience and memory of last summer's island trips -- the ferry ride over, day trippers in awe at Whitehead, and the island's population of plein air painters in action. I'll continue to paint Monhegan this coming summer no matter what, but the residency would provide me with an opportunity to spend the night on the island for the first time and better capture the full spectrum of its light and life. Right now I'm limited to the Hardy Boat's 10:00am arrival and 3:15pm departure!

Pictured here are five paintings I submitted with my residency application. All are oil on panel and range from 6" x 6" (top) to 20" x 48" (second from bottom). All have been completed in the new year and are not yet on my website. Please email me with any inquiries.

I've also included my short application statement below. For those who are interested, I hope it provides context for the work that I do -- and will continue to do!




"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder." 

E.B. White


During the past two years I have made paintings of Monhegan. In this application and on my website you will notice their glaring similarity: all depict the island drenched in mid-day light. Why? My visits to Monhegan have always been limited to the Hardy Boat’s 10am arrival and 3:15pm departure. My husband captains this ferry. We are always traveling to and from the island, never staying. But presence is what I desire.

Picture me, sprinting across the island the moment the Hardy Boat docks, huffing up the hill, covering the terrain of trail 7 as quickly as possible, and clambering just below the edge of Whitehead to hurriedly set up for my shot before any other day-trippers arrive. Admittedly, the adrenaline and adventure of the rushed visual experience is typical, even attractive in our ADD culture; but it is ultimately draining and incongruous to my own practice of painting and being. Instead of being in a rush I want to take time to wonder. I want to be in a place. I want to already be at Whitehead, present and waiting, watching as the first visitors appear over the edge, pointing and shading their eyes from the expansive Atlantic before them. I want to witness their wonder. I want to wonder at their wonder. And wonder is hard pressed to rush.

Wonder is important to me. I have an entire blog devoted to it. Like the content of themaineblog.com, my paintings are about being in a place of wonder. My recent “outsiders” depict figures hiking, swimming, climbing, and being in a place through sustained, physical exploration. Wonder drives me to action; what is it to know a place not only through the eye but through the body as well, and then to show this place by releasing it back through the body and into paint, for the full circle wonder of the eye? My earlier window paintings shattered into my recent outsiders when I finally acted on the desire to be out there, beyond the window panes. 

Likewise, my Monhegan paintings express a desire to be out there, there now meaning Monhegan. I desire a sustained and physical exploration of place. I no longer want to come and go in a five hour window when all the light is high and all the community is noisy and bright. I no longer want to be in my mainland studio contemplating the photos I’ve taken of other artists working and learning on the island. I want to be there, less noisy and bright myself, to wonder and to know what the light, the colors, and the people are like in the morning when I wake, in the evening before I sleep, and in the middle of the night while I’m dreaming. I want to be there and to follow E.B. White’s admonition — “always” — at least for a month.