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May 27, 2009

Wyeth’s Gulls: Representations of the Sea

Since the death of his father Andrew in January, artist Jamie Wyeth has continued with his life and his life’s work: painting. His first show since his father’s death — “‘Seven Deadly Sins,” which opened at Rockland’s Farnsworth’s Wyeth Center on May 16 — marks the Maine debut of his series of gull paintings, and its first showing since they were originally put on display in New York in 2007.

The subject’s focus is human frailty, specifically the sins of pride, envy, anger, greed, sloth, gluttony, and lust, codified as the seven deadly sins in the writings of the late thirteenth-century Dominican, Saint Thomas Aquinas… Wyeth’s take on the subject … the sins are acted out by seagulls, birds the artist has observed for decades along the coast of Maine and from his studios on Monhegan and Southern islands.

This introspective, ranging Portland Press Herald feature contains a video component, with Jamie discussing his long-standing relationship with the gulls, which he says he hates to see romaniticized in art.

“The eye of the sea gull says more about the sea than a big, sudsy surf scene,” Wyeth says. The birds are a big part of his mostly-solitary working and living time off Tenants Harbor.

“Living on an island gives you a sort of focus,” Wyeth adds. And the results of that focus are magical.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 30. Add it to your summer’s to-do list.

Jessica Strelitz is a contributing writer to Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

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