At one with nature

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 10:00am

    “That each new painting emerges from the same chaotic conditions speaks to me of the unpredictable complexity and instability of meaningful order in the world, but also of the inevitable, if temporary, moment of finding it.” – Meg Brown Payson, quoted in Boston Voyager Magazine

    Payson’s works installed at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, now through Oct. 31, reflect and complement the natural world that surrounds them. The art is dye-sublimation print on aluminum, back and front – although who’s to say which is which? The designs, colors and technique fascinate.

    The shapes and colors dance around and within one another. And in “Quiet: Woodland,” the dance, the movement, shimmers. Shapes take on the appearance of rocks and leaves amidst other plants in greens and grays … that silvery gray, or green. When I moved around it taking photos from different angles, it seemed so alive surrounded by the lush groundcover. Was it the shimmering quality of the paint colors? Was it the subjects actually moving within the confines of the aluminum? Don’t know, but it was quite entertaining.

    “Quiet: Turtlepond’s” greens, oranges and whites reminded me of, well, a pond – not one I was looking at from the ground, but from some point above diving through the depths of its water … there are  rocks at the bottom, with fish, turtles, ameoba, orange tops of jellyfish-like creatures or peace lily blooms … there are other shapes I cannot identify … perhaps those represent organisms yet undiscovered? I did the “ooooh!” thing quite audibly as I saw this one during my tour.

    One of Payson’s super colorful, jazzy works is called “Redwall Cool 4” and it just makes you smile because of the reds, pinks, oranges and pale green colors. It’s simultaneously chaotic and soothing. The deep, varying shade of green by the trees and shrubs behind and in front of it make it pop.

    Another gorgeous spot is the pond with the lily pads, stages for the frogs and dragonflies leaping and darting, respectively, about the pond. Again, those greens … There are three pieces standing tall, sentinels drawing in the life around them.

    “Echo Lake” is a four-piece installation on the Great Lawn, where the original Visitor Center stood. This one is of blues, shades of yellow and whites. In these pieces I see the lake, the water surrounded by the memories of visitors – yes, those visitors did take most of their memories with them when they left, but you can’t remember everything, right? The shapes of the memories are different sizes – some like those bubbles blown by those big bubble wands, when we were kids in the 60s.

    Payson was an associate professor of drawing and foundation at Maine College of Art until she left teaching in 2011. In addition to art, she has a passion for travel and has made several journeys to Utah, drawn by those commanding red rocks, and to Quebec and Maine’s North Woods.

    This is her first show at CMBG. And I suspect it will not be the last. In addition to using aluminum as palette, she also works in charcoals, oils and oil pastels on Masonite; acrylic on panel. For more on this interesting artist, visit

    Unlike Payson, sculptor Dan West has shown at CMBG in the past. This time around, he has a few examples of his herons here. The very elegant “Big Blue” heron is a bronze cast from driftwood! I soon found myself imagining that long, delicate neck winding the heron’s head in my direction and then enveloping me like a boa – as in feather, not reptile, although I can see  that, too, but a welcome sight it isn’t! And far too necky to use in a croquet match.

    “Hunkered Heron” also stands near the footbridge that takes you closer to the entrance bridge. He looks like an old curmudgeon and reminded me of that painting by the German artist Krahe Rudi Hurzlmeier’s “Black Raven Crow Walking In Boots”… maybe it’s the posture … I don’t know … West’s bronzed bird is clearly a heron!

    I wish there had been more of his pieces in this show, entitled “Shallows 2020.” All of the work is for sale except one of Payson’s aluminum panels in the pond.

    Advance reservations required. Masks must be worn in all of the buildings and in some outdoor areas that are small, such as the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. Call the Gardens at 633-8000 or visit

    Immerse yourself in the art of nature at CMBG. It’s good for the soul.