The Wyethian James O’Neil Paintings At The “Redfield Artisans Gallery” In Northeast Harbor, Maine — Outside Acadia.
by Anura Guruge
Northeast Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, to the south of the main swath of Acadia National Park, to me, is quintessential ‘Down East‘ Maine. Reminds me of Camden, Maine, on a smaller, more intimate scale. We drove through it last September when we were trying to get a feel of the island. On this trip I planned to spend an afternoon there and that we did on Thursday, June 26. Delightful. Delightful. Delightful.
Maine, compared to New Hampshire, has a lot of art galleries. They even have a big, fat magazine called ‘Maine Gallery + Studio Guide’ featuring some of the outlets. We used to go to Rockland and Camden quite a bit since Deanna is from Cushing, Maine — just further down south from Rockland. I used to be in awe at the number of galleries and the quality of work on sale. Yes, we know it is Wyeth country. Deanna, as a child growing up in Cushing, knew Andrew Wyeth — Cushing being Wyeth’s summer residence where he painted all of the haunting “Christina” paintings. Yes, we have a large “Christina’s World” print that has pride of place in the house. Deanna was one of the kids that used to get quarters from Andrew — to buy ice cream! This is Deanna’s aunt, by marriage, Siri, that Andrew painted (some topless) — when the subject was about 14 years old. [It was still a different age then! Here is a link to some of the Wyeth ‘Siri’ images.]
Next to bookshops art galleries are my next favorites places to hang around and browse. So as soon as we parked in Northeast Harbor I, with the kids in tow, headed to the nearest art gallery, the “Redfield Artisans Gallery”, which happened to be right in front of where we parked. I had already seen the really neat, stone whale sculptures in the window. That is really why I parked there. I was curious as to how much they were. They were not bad. Around $1,100. Kind of ‘affordable’ for what they are — classic pieces of art.
Then I saw the pictures. I was blown away — as was Devanee, who is quite little artist in her own way.
You can’t miss them.
It is his rocks.
They are special. They are luminescent. They stand out. They are 3D. It is just like looking at real chunks of rock in Maine (on a sunny day) in terms of texture, depth and feel. You just want to reach out.
Without me even saying anything Devanee, 13, immediately made the Wyeth association because his paintings of houses matched the house in “Christina’s World” that she has seen every day of her life for the last 11 years. That is one heck of a testament to James O’Neil. If a 13-year old can see the resemblance, but comment that the rocks are better, he is on a roll.
I spent nearly 40 minutes, mesmerized, looking at his work. Yes, there were some other very, very good paintings, sculptures and objet d’art, but I was totally and utterly captivated by O’Neil. Some of his bigger pieces are way, way, way outside of my “pay scale” — as they should be. I have no problem with that. They are worth every cent that they want for those. But, some of his smaller pieces could be within reach — in my dreams. I keep on telling myself, quite rightly, that our biggest problem is that we have no more wall space! But, my O’Neil is on my radar.