My Maine Inspiration: Following in the Footsteps of American Artistic Tradition

Huffington Post Arts

Although I grew up in New York and have lived there for many years, I have a summer studio in Maine. Every summer I pack up and go to paint following the tradition of so many of America’s painters from Winslow Homer to Alex Katz. Right now I just opened my annual exhibit, “Barbara Ernst Prey: America’s Artist Forty Years of Painting” (through August 31 at Blue Water Fine Arts in Port Clyde The exhibit draws collectors, curators, museum directors and those who follow my artwork from all over the country. It is down at the end of a peninsula, a destination and a bit off the beaten path. I am really excited about this particular body of work which is an extension of my Works on Water and Nocturne series.

As a landscape painter, I am often asked where I go to paint. I prefer to choose the places where other people don’t go so that means flying to outlying islands where the landing strip is a field or catching a ride with a local fisherman to an island so I can paint. When I am working in Maine I am so focused that I don’t even think about eating and have to make sure that I do, I’d much rather paint.

For the past several years I have been exploring the life of my neighbors, the fishing community. Many of the paintings were in a recent exhibit in Paris curated by Sarah Cash, Curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art who wrote in the accompanying exhibit catalogue,

Among the foremost artists at work in the United States today, Barbara Ernst Prey has painted powerful, vibrant views of her surroundings for nearly forty years. There is a powerful sense of human presence-despite the absence of the figure-infused with a compelling aura of place and history that characterizes this group of Prey’s exquisitely rendered, light-filled watercolors. The artist continues to take the watercolor medium, which has an august role in the history of American art, to innovative places.

This series was also exhibited in New York where the Wall Street Journal selected the exhibit as its museum choice. The paintings touch on the many challenges facing the fishing community from economic to environmental to safety issues. Other paintings of Maine have ended up in The White House, Brooklyn Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum and currently one of my paintings of Maine is on exhibit in the office of the Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts.

At the other end of the spectrum, my NASA-commissioned painting of the x-43, the fastest aircraft in the world, is included in NASA’s traveling exhibit NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration which celebrates NASA’s 50th anniversary. NASA is collaborating with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the exhibit which travels to thirteen museums in the country (see Huffington Post blog NASA Art/50 Years at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Perspectives from a NASA Artist). The x-43 was painted from drawings I did out at Edwards Air Force Base in California an hour before take off. My four commissioned NASA paintings have given me not only a global context but a universal one and emphasized how we are all interdependent and interrelated. Two of my other NASA commissioned artworks, The Columbia Tribute and The International Space Station are on exhibit at The Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As a painter I like to do new things and explore new venues and push the limits. Watercolor is a unique medium as you never know what will happen, part of the challenge is in the process.

Hope to see you in Maine!

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