November 28, 2017


By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright GLOBE CORRESPONDENTS, November 23, 2017


There was a time when you wouldn’t want to stick around Rockland, Maine. This seaside town on the west side of Penobscot Bay was the ugly sister of the Midcoast, tough, run-down, and rough-around-the-edges. 


But things have changed, and the once-gritty commercial center is fast becoming an artsy enclave, with a swelling cluster of studios and galleries, and a vibrant, growing community of artists, chefs, boatbuilders, sculptors, architects, and more.


“Rockland was saved by art,” says John Hanson, publisher of Maine Boats Homes & Harbors. “We’ve had the pioneers and a couple of generations of artists. But now we have young artists everywhere, coming to be around like-minded souls, and bringing a real sense of community and creative energy. You can feel it.”


We headed north to check it out. The buzzing 250 Main (it opened in May 2016) is a 26-room, chic boutique hotel, and the place to stay, especially if you appreciate modern art and design (207-594-5994; The open lobby has sleek industrial decor, along with wooden beams and tables made from the wood of old, salvaged boats (a nod to Rockland’s boatbuilding past and present). Creamy hues are accented by the colorful, contemporary works of local artists. Rooms are all unique but carry the upscale, chic design; most have water views. We arrived during the complimentary happy hour, and while the lobby was a fine place to linger, we headed to the rooftop terrace, with a sweeping harbor vista.


The next stop on our Rockland art visit was the Farnsworth ArtMuseum (207-596-6457;, highly regarded and considered one of the finest small museums in the country. The collection includes more than 15,000 works, showcasing American artists from the 18th century to the present, with a focus on artists who have lived or worked in Maine. We were fascinated by the Andrew Wyeth at 100: Maine Drawings exhibition of the artist’s rarely-seen drawings (running through March 4, 2018).


A short block away is the stunning, new Center for Maine Contemporary Art (207-701-5005;, designed by award-winning architect and part-time Maine resident Toshiko Mori. The 11,500-square-foot building, which opened in June 2016, features large, wide-open spaces; even the offices are visible and on display here. “We wanted to be completely open and transparent,” says executive director and chief curator Suzette McAvoy of the building’s design. “We wanted to take the intimidation and sense of aloofness out of contemporary art.” McAvoy calls the open outdoor courtyard “a living room for the community,” and talks excitedly about the museum’s close and connected relationship with local artists. The Center hosts eight to 10 shows a year, with changing exhibits every three or four months, featuring the works of contemporary Maine artists. Feeling artsy? Drop in the Open Studio, where you’re welcome to use the art supplies to create your own masterpiece. And on First Friday Art Walks, there’s food and live entertainment in the courtyard.


Rockland’s artsy movement has gone hand-in-hand with its flourishing culinary scene. There are mainstays, like the well- known Primo restaurant, helmed by two-time James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef, Melissa Kelly (207-596-0770; which continues to draw diners from around New England. The small and always bustling Café Miranda (207-594-2034; is a longstanding local fave, with a huge menu of seriously good comfort food (try the lobster mac ’n cheese). On this trip, we checked out In Good Company (207-593-9110;, an intimate bistro on Main Street with a smart wine list and expertly-prepared dishes like the hot cherry peppers stuffed with provolone and prosciutto, curried Maine shrimp and haddock chowder, and the walnut-and-fontina-crusted beef tenderloin. If you’re a raw fish aficionado, don’t miss Suzuki’s Sushi Bar (207-596-7447;; chef owner Keiko Suzuki was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2017 and 2016. For breakfast, try the Home Kitchen Café (207-596-2449;, and while in Rockland, the self-proclaimed Lobster Capital of the World, stop by the come-as-you-are Claws restaurant for a crustacean fix (207-596-5600;


Many restaurants are clustered in the walkable downtown area, as are the town’s top galleries. 

We visited the pretty little Elm Street brick courtyard  where the Caldbeck Gallery (207-594-5935; is located, one of the largest and oldest galleries in Rockland representing known and emerging Maine artists. The Craft Gallery (207-594-0167;, housed in a 19th century carriage house anchoring the courtyard, represents the works of well-established, contemporary Maine artists. Asymmetrick Arts (207-594-2020; on Main Street is known for its edgy exhibitions of local and national contemporary artists, while the beautiful Harbor Square Gallery (207-594-8700;, in an elegant 1912 brick building, is considered one of the finest galleries on the East coast, featuring fine art jewelry, sculptures, paintings, furniture and ceramics.


Art is everywhere in this town, along Main Street, in rooftop and courtyard sculpture gardens, in tucked-away artist studios and galleries. 

“It’s a far stronger art scene here than, say, in Portland,” says Hanson. “The galleries seem to do better here. But it goes beyond the galleries. It goes to the spirit of creativity that’s going on.”


We didn’t mind sticking around and soaking up some of that vibe.


Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at




November 14, 2017

Daniel Gauss, writing in Wall Street International, has posted a review of new work by Alan Bray - INWARD MAINE, at Simon/Garvey Gallery in New York.


October 27, 2017


The Camden Public Library welcomes Melanie Essex to the Picker Room Gallery for the month of November. Her dynamic and colorful paintings hold fascinating hidden detail. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, November 4 at 4:00 pm, with a chance to meet the artist.

“All of my work begins with looking at, then responding to the natural world," says Essex. "As a young painter in New York, I worked in a life studio, drawing and painting from the model 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 years. In the summers I would get out of the city, when I could, to work directly from the rural, waterfront landscape of my childhood on eastern Long Island. Painting in that low, bucolic bay setting had a huge impact on the way I developed as an artist. There were big skies over thin strips of land, barrier beaches or the distant shore across the bay. I often worked on wood panels, joining them together horizontally to span a vista, or vertically to emphasize events along the horizon.  I decided I was a landscape painter and that was that."

A move to London in 1995 shifted her focus to urban landscapes – first exploring the view from her World’s End studio, then painting for several years from perches at the top of skyscrapers and finally from the banks of the Thames.

Though humans rarely appeared in this work, she kept drawing from the figure throughout. At first, Essex drew from paintings in the National Gallery. Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese were her favorites.  Going forward, she snatched opportunities where she could – taking a life class at the Royal College of Art, sharing a model with painter friends, joining groups in London and then in Rockland as well in Tenants Harbor and Thomaston. Those summer sessions were especially wonderful as they drew outside – amongst trees, unruly vegetable gardens, stacks of firewood, sleeping dogs, curious chickens – in the landscape.

"Then," Essex continues, "About ten years ago figures began creeping into my work to compete for attention with the sky and the ground. The Field/Sky/Figure series was made in my last London studio – a converted greenhouse at the bottom of an overgrown garden. The Thames was in walking distance and supplied plenty of material – sky, clouds, tidal water, fog and the kind of dramatic sunsets enhanced by urban pollution. Increasingly figures began to dominate the painted fields beneath the skies. The Power Plant series evolved as a counterpoint – signaling the human presence in the form of silos, typical of post-war power generating stations in the UK.”

Melanie Essex graduated from Harvard in 1981 and after a successful career in film production – her work is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art – she studied painting at the New York Studio School from 1990-1994. Her work has been exhibited in London and New York and in Maine, and is in important private collections on both sides of the Atlantic, including several trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  After two decades in London she has returned to the US and lives and works in Cushing, Maine. She is represented by the Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland Maine.


Camden Public Library

55 Main St.

Camden, Maine 04843