Carolyn Brady, Bean House with Red Chopsticks, 2003
I’d Greyhound 600 miles to taste a swatch of Carolyn Brady’s luminous megawatercolors. So I did. And Greyhound schedules being looser and looser, I sweated out two dire pre-midnight hours at the increasingly infernal Port of New York Authority Terminal (as in End), took two delightful early morning hours to ramble up Boston’s Boylston Street and back on Newbury—as fine a gaggle of yupped-up 19th Century stuff, beginning with H.H. Richardson’s world-class Trinity Church (1877), as ever you’ll find near a Greyhound bus station—and two hours to sample the Skowhegan, Maine, art colony retrospective at the Portland Art Museum (a stunner by I.M. Pei)—they have great cooling gobs of Winslow Homer on display as well.
Then Carolyn’s stuff at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine (the home town of Louise Nevelson). Okie Brady is real down-home still, even though five-by-eight-foot paintings which ten years ago sold for $500 now fetch (I hate that snooty verb) as high as 25 Gs—so fast an escalation that only the largest corporations can now afford her.
Every one of her paintings (which take three to six weeks to execute, using 11-by-14-inch color photos for guidance on her largely floral still lifes) are spoken for before they’re finished for shipment to the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York.
For Carolyn, seeing 18 months of her most recent production together is motivation enough for such an exhibition (viewable through this summer). And as she told Larry Ouellette of the Portland Press Herald, “Selling is different from being taken seriously. Even when your paintings sell for a goodly amount of money, it is not a secure life.”
She summers on Vinalhaven with her sculptor husband Billy Epton (his Coke-brandishing Statue of Liberty, devised by green patina-ing a local log, is already a landmark) and precocious moppet Alexander. I accepted their invitation to crash on their island and took the 15-mile, hour-and-a-half ferry ride on a chartered Lively Lady, which lost its liveliness ten minutes into Penobscot Bay when it chewed up its fan belt. We bobbled closer and closer to the breakwater in pea soup fog as Cap’n Ambrose—who talked remarkably like a man playing a Maine retired Navy captain in a Frank Capra movie—showed us how they make do in adversity “down east.”
The island (winter population, 1,200) is an exhibition in itself: Robert Indiana, that odd LOVE fellow, bought the 1885 Odd Fellows hall and now withdraws sullenly behind its Gofer Baroque façade, a warning to future realtors to be more Maine canny.
A granite eagle from New York’s razed Penn Station sits astride two slabs of Vinalhaven granite, a testament to the mistaken belief that the icon was carved from the stone that made the island famous and moderately rich when architects had enough sense to use local stone—the eagle’s actually made of Indiana limestone.
The great slabs of Vinalhaven were carted around on galamanders, Martian looking wagons, a splendid example of which stands grandly in front of the Carnegie Library, whose Romanesque arch of a door is made of that stern stuff. Wow, Maine, finally.
Reprinted from Welcomat: After Dark, Hazard-at-Large, August 5, 1987