Maine attraction: new art in Ogunquit

Season highlights include Jamie Wyeth at Ogunquit Museum of American Art

Since the 1890s, Ogunquit has been a destination for artists, a respite and inspiration. Its history as an art colony and role in American modernism continues to define it, though times have changed. There might not be artists sleeping in barns anymore, but there are several places to see their work.

Among these is the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, a seasonal venue on the waterfront with sculpture gardens and galleries. It’s open every day from May 1 to Oct. 31.

There are always new reasons to return to the museum, in addition to examples by founder Henry Strater and pieces from its permanent collection. Interim director Andres Verzosa said artists are still drawn to the seascape, and the Ogunquit Museum represents their contemporary work as well as historic figures.

This season’s highlight is a selection of work by Jamie Wyeth, who carries on an artistic legacy that includes Andrew Wyeth and N.C. Wyeth. The exhibition runs June 30 through Oct. 31.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts recently celebrated Jamie Wyeth’s distinctive, imaginative approach to realism and immersive approach to portraiture with a retrospective in 2014. In Ogunquit, the focus will be on his ties to Maine and the sense of place his work evokes. Borrowing from private collections, it will include, among other work, some of his “Seven Deadly Sins” series, which depicts rivaling seagulls observed on the coast.

Former Ogunquit Museum director Ron Crusan resigned in March to curate and promote Linda Bean’s Wyeth art collection. Her gallery is in Port Clyde, Maine.

Also in June, the Ogunquit Museum introduces Tom Butler, a relatively new talent to the area, who has shown in Portland and Biddeford, as well as in his hometown of London. He repurposes antique photographs by painting surfaces with unruly hair or strange masks, which serve as both imagined symbols of the sitter’s hidden personality and projections of his own thoughts.

"Emberson" by Tom Butler at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

detail of “Emberson” by Tom Butler

Though the museum cherishes its history, Verzosa said it also looks for new contributions to the scene. “There’s always been this overture of showing emerging, contemporary artists,” he said.

Opening in May, local watercolorist Patience Haley will finally show her work in the museum, after long having ties to it and the art colony. She was in attendance when the museum opened in 1953, and summered in Ogunquit before moving to the area. Many of the paintings in “Blue Moon” were inspired by the landscape, though uniquely interpreted.

Also beginning May 1, the museum presents “Bernard Langlais: Wood, Paper, and Canvas,” which unveils some of about 30 recent gifts. Langlais (1921-1977) was part of the New York abstraction movement before returning to Maine and turning to wood as his primary medium. Some of his larger animal sculptures are on permanent display on the museum’s grounds.

And there’s “Bernard Karfiol: Ogunquit Master” throughout the season. Karfiol (1886-1952) came to Ogunquit to teach at Hamilton Easter Field’s school, which was at the center of one of the first art colonies in America. He’s known for his work with the figure and portraits of his family, and this show includes some recent donations from the family.

Nearby, the Barn Gallery opens for its season on May 25, featuring members of the Ogunquit Art Association and other area artists. It’s located on the corner of Shore Road and Bourne Lane.

The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is located at 543 Shore Road, Ogunquit, Maine.