Margery (Jeri) Hamlen

image of arctic painting

In the Arctic, the scale hits you first. Overwhelmed and awestruck, my first works were small, perhaps because one feels so small. But now the awe of all that beauty and magnificence has been replaced by a disquieting fear – a fear of instability, disruption, of something deep and enormous coming undone.

I am grateful for the visits I’ve had to the Far North, especially Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island and deep into Smith Sound on the northwestern coast of Greenland. Will I return? Should I return? I’m not sure - and so I paint.

I grew up in the woods of rural Maine – no stores, no movies, no TV, and certainly no art museums. After my early one-room school education I did eventually find myself in some wonderful art classes. The question I always dreaded, however, was “What were your early art experiences?” As far as I could tell, I didn’t have any.

But at MassArt, in my late 40’s, we spent a lot of time examining our sources, why one person’s work is so different from another’s, and I finally understood that I had had early art experiences but that they had happened outdoors.

My earliest art experiences were not working the tiresome coloring books provided by my mother. Rather they were happening as I lay on the ground watching ants on summer afternoons and gazing up at the Big Dipper and the Milky Way on cold winter nights. As a child I was captivated by the intimacy of “up close” and drawn to the mystery of “far away.”

I left Maine when I was 13 but returned when I was 23, this time to Islesboro where I found not only the woods of my childhood, but also the sea!

Website address: Margery Hamlen
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