The Impossible Sight of a Ship

First Flight by Sarah McRae Morton

First Flight by Sarah McRae Morton. 6 ft by 9 ft! My favorite from this show.

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I stashed my dogs and my rig with friends in Seattle and flew east for two weeks. First I flew landed in Maine to attend the opening night of my sister’s show “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” at the Dowling-Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. Sarah has been making her living as a painter for over a decade now and her paintings never cease to enthrall me. I’ll let Sarah’s words and paintings speak for themselves. Here is her artist’s statement:

A family tie brought me to Maine. I have returned, following windy curiosity to see whereseafarers fed my favorite painters, find the “Grim and Wild Maine” described by Thoreau, follow water veins he coursed with Penobscot guides, and hear the wrath of the ocean on the fortress walls of Monhegan.

“Wilding on November 1st, the Worth of a Pig (after ‘Fog Warning’ by Winslow Homer).

“Wilding on November 1st, the Worth of a Pig (after ‘Fog Warning’ by Winslow Homer).

The subjects in “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” are the people from whom I am descended, by blood or by the “marrow of artistic tradition”, all of whom led me to a place and time in Maine. The present, as a culmination of chances, is one lock of a braided theme joining pieces in this suite of work. The other two lineages of the binding braid are the history of a family, and that of a string of artists. From each I have inherited substance to make paintings.

These paintings are maps of retraced steps, records of the roads taken to try to capture images of people long gone. They are invented portraits of the shells of tenacious spirits who have survived because their stories are transmitted around campfires, between rocking chairs, and under moth eaten black skies. They had memorable lives or unforgettable brushes with death and left enough legacy, artifacts or genetic residue to retell their stories. What they all have in common is me, a common descendant.

As there is an optimal viewing distance for every painting, it seems true of history too – perspective clarifies some facts and can obscure what we wish not to see. It’s a metaphor I elude to by rendering some detail finely while blurring other passages within the same frame.

"Wills of Morton and Bonnie – the night he wrote the letter that would be lost for 100 years.”

“Wills of Morton and Bonnie – the night he wrote the letter that would be lost for 100 years.”

My paintings mimic American academic construction. The compositions draw from a canon of western paintings where a common goal was to deceive the viewer- to build a believable window view to an invented scene by an alchemic process using dirt, stone oil, sap, gems and flax. The style of the pieces varies according to the prevalent style of art during each character’s lifetime, displaying facets of aesthetic traditions, or challenges to convention that made American art history.

The process of learning to see gave me the title of the show, “The Impossible Sight of a Ship.” It has been theorized that when European vessels first appeared on the horizon of the Americas, native people could not “see” the ships. Having never laid eyes on such objects before, they were not primed to recognize the shapes of the bow, hull and sails…or see the apparition as portent of a storm.

The concept that it is an acquired ability to recognize objects, illusions, constructions, pictures is a useful analogy for my process of painting. My work is a continuation of the endeavors of others. The ship is impossible for me to see without the ghosts of earlier images on my retinas. I relied on the work of the Wyeths, Homer, Peal, Sully, Eakins to compose these pictures.

The Last Word Before the Joints of the Chair Creaked

The Last Word Before the Joints of the Chair Creaked

My other favorite: Eve of the Blue Grass

My other favorite: Eve of the Blue Grass

These five sold as a set.

These five sold as a set.

"The Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity"

“The Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity”

Detail from the Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity,

Detail from the Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity. I overheard Sarah telling somebody that the chickens in her paintings represent the ideas that she can’t quite grasp firmly enough to set down on canvas.

Sarah in the gallery among her 38 paintings, representing a year's work.

Sarah in the gallery among her 38 paintings, representing a year’s work.

Sarah’s show is getting rave reviews and she’s selling out! Read more about her show in the Portland Press Herald and visit the gallery’s website here. Her website is mcraemorton.com.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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12 Responses to The Impossible Sight of a Ship

  1. Cnawan Fahey says:

    Stunning, stunning, stunning…she posses a great talent.

  2. pagedogs says:

    I am in awe of your sister’s paintings. We just left the Maine coast a few weeks ago–I wish we had caught her show. Next time.

  3. hilthethrill says:

    Mind. Blown. Especially the chickens.

  4. Lavinia Ross says:

    Your whole family seems to be quite gifted. Thank you for sharing your sister’s paintings – they are beautiful!

  5. Mulberrygrrl says:

    As a long-time admirer of your blog I am bestowing the One Lovely Blog award on you. Please see the current post at wereallrelative.com to see how you can display the award and pass it forward.

  6. The paintings are very interesting and amazing. I love the use of color and style that the painting was done in. I draw many things but I only wish I could create pieces of artwork such as those.

  7. k8librarian says:

    I love this she is awesome

  8. These are all breathtaking, but “Eve of the Blue Grass” is unspeakably beautiful.

  9. Pingback: Washington Cascades: Mount Adams! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  10. lifeinspurts2014 says:

    Beautiful artwork! I envy your life!

  11. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    So glad I was searching through your archives for blogs I’d missed and came across your sister’s stunning art work! What a talented family you are.

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