above: Stoney Conley, Cove North Island Afternoon, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016
So we ask what does Maine mean to you?
I have a personal history with Maine, in 1977 my wife Mary and I met in Maine at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, so Maine has a special history for us. We have spent summers in Maine since 1981. At Skowhegan I was introduced to Fresco, which I painted in for a decade, and taught at Skowhegan for a few summers, my paintings at the time referred to the history and process of fresco. Now for over two decades I have painted the landscape in Maine, a direct response to what I see and experience. But I didn’t always and being in Maine made me observe the natural world closely.
Does it affect your work or does your art have nothing to do with where you live?
Over the 36 years we’ve been coming to Maine it has influenced my work profoundly. Overtime I became a painter of landscape, of water and skies and woods. I intend these works to have a sense of place. The light and color are essential elements in these paintings. Even the months I am not in Maine my time here influences my work, I learned to see nature here, I learned to see here.
Are you drawn to Maine by some romantic idea, by the landscape?
For a period I painted abstractly but after walking the beach for a decade I painted the sea. It took me ten years to learn how to see it. For the last decade I made collage-paintings of the afternoon light as my studio faces west. I paint trees as a distant horizon, or as a group, or an individual form, investigating the environment around me.
Do you summer here to escape the heat of the city?
Although I work in Boston in the winter, I balance that with Maine’s sea breezes,the shade of its trees, a walk in the woods in the summer. I cut a field and plant trees and put down roots like the plants that grow here. I return to the city when the days grow short and the fall semester starts.
Do you feed on the local art culture or does it oppress you, confine you? Is it special, or parochial, or is it, dare I say, provincial.
I studied in New York, then Boston and then the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Skowhegan had the broadest range of teachers and students. I find the Maine Museums a rich resource, showing contemporary as well as historical work, when I need a shot of culture. However I find I often stick to my studio and paint from local places. Time feels short; that gives you focus. I’m focused on what’s before me, get it down before it changes, get it down before I’m gone.