Forest Fires and First Traces in Maine

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By Alan Magee

By Alan Magee

Dark Sky, Burning Forest #2, 2008, by Dennis Pinette

Dark Sky, Burning Forest #2, 2008, by Dennis Pinette

By Jennifer Hodges

By Jennifer Hodges

Dennis Pinette is among my favorite contemporary Maine painters. In fact, he is among my favorite all-time Maine painters. Born in Belfast, where he now lives and works, Pinette is a native Maine artist who looks beyond the picturesque to the more piquant, poignant, and pungent aspects of the Maine reality. Though he still primarily deals in appearances, he chooses industrial landscapes over bucolic, churning waters over crashing surf, the forest on fire over the forest primeval.

“The subjects that interest me most,” writes Pinette, “(water, fire, sky rhythms, weeds, chaotic woods, mundane industrial zones) are as elusive as they are common and through them I seek a key logic able to expand the mind’s eye to embrace visual mystery.”

Currently (through December 20), the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport is featuring Dennis Pinette: Expansion of Logic in its loft gallery, devoting the space beneath the eaves to Pinette’s distinctive take on the Maine experience. Whether dealing with natural elements or human industry, Pinette is a master of the dynamic landscape.

Born in Belfast but raised in Massachusetts, Dennis Pinette studied at the Hartford Art School and was an active participant in the Connecticut art scene before returning to Maine in 1983 and quickly becoming one of the movers and shakers behind the gritty little art scene that developed around his hometown. The paintings that brought him to national attention were oily, intense, electric images of paper mills, rail yards, and power plants, canvases crackling with heat and light. In this, his paintings contributed to the workscape genre practiced by fellow Maine painters such as Rackstraw Downes, DeWitt Hardy, and Robert Solotaire.

When Pinette subsequently turned to more traditional elements of the Maine landscape – woods, water, fields – he did so with an emphasis on the natural rhythms and dynamic processes at work in nature, marrying the energy of his brushwork to that of the wind, the waves, the weather, and the wildness. This CMCA show is a great opportunity to catch up with the velocity of Pinette’s painting.

Concurrent with the Pinette exhibition, CMCA has mounted a major exhibition of minor work by close to 90 artists. Entitled First Traces, this fun and innovative show features sketches, drawings, doodles,notebooks, paintings, and digital imaging that mark the “first traces” of works-in-progress. In these preliminary and preparatory works, one essentially sees artists such as Lois Dodd, Jeff Kellar, Frederick Lynch, Alan Magee, Marguerite Robichaux, Barbara Sullivan, and Lucy White thinking out loud, or rather thinking visually, working out ideas on paper.

In the galleries on the lower floor, CMCA is featuring a thoughtful conjunction of exhibitions – David Segre: Chronic, black and white portraits of people suffering with mental illnesses; and Art from the LINC and Waterville Social Clubs, art works by people suffering with mental illnesses.

From Dennis Pinette’s mature virtuosity through the premature markings of a host of artists to shedding light on a largely invisible population, the four year-end shows at CMCA offer a range of aesthetic experiences rare and valuable.

Center for Maine Contemporary Art, 162 Russell Ave., Rockport ME. 207-236-2875.


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