“Sense of Place” is an exhibition by Maine painter Mathew O’Donnell with an opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 at the River Arts Gallery II in Damariscotta. “Sense of Place” will run through Aug. 28 at 241 US Route 1, River Arts II is open daily from 10-4 and on Sundays 12-5.
Mathew O’Donnell began painting as a young boy in Van Buren, where he was born in 1949. Inspired by his father, the stillness of the landscape, the vitality of the farmland and the people who worked the fields, Mat continued to paint after he and his family moved to Bangor. Upon graduation from high school, Mat attended The Maine College of Art in Portland and The Boston Fine Art Museum School before getting his Bachelor of Science Degree at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1977.
Mathew’s surroundings were a constant prompt for his paintings. The Holstein cows on the hill beyond his studio in Searsport, the lumbermen and the trees they felled during the last log drives where he was a foreman on the Kennebec River; an empty saltwater pool along the coast; inland dwellings and structures and the people who inhabited them; Maine folklore from Paul Bunyan to the Native Americans from the Penobscot region.
In his artist’s statement, O’Donnell states “Making a painting requires an impetus to know – not necessarily to know truth, but to visually realize ideas that cannot be mentally pictured. Art makes concrete what cannot be achieved by other means. Through my drawing and painting I try to portray the different layers of existence that surround me, from the mundane to the cosmic. I believe these levels exist in everything: trees, animals, sunsets, people, etc. Everything around me is full of information and wisdom. Creating and identifying helps me remember and connect with people, places, and things. Making these paintings seems like such a random and chaotic process. The rational part of me often wonders at the pointlessness of it. But in the end, I’m always surprised by how much sense they make after all, and how complete and human I feel because of them.”
A skilled carpenter, O’Donnell built a studio next to The Montsweag River in Wiscasset, where he resides with his wife and daughter. There he paints every day, writes, and strums his guitar. His current body of work involves birch bark. Still the naturalist, birds, fish and other wildlife often find their way into his pieces.
River Arts supports the arts community and conducts open, juried, themed exhibitions every five weeks, year round. In addition to exhibitions, River Arts has a full schedule of classes, open studios, lectures, poetry readings and special events as well as a full schedule of artist directed exhibitions at the River Arts Gallery II on Route 1. For more information call 563-1507 or visit riverartsme.org.