Past Show

Camden Falls Gallery opens the busy summer season with a show featuring two of our popular marine artists. Both masterful oil painters, Todd Bonita and Kirk McBride share a deep connection with all things nautical. Their subjects involve those who ply the sea for work, pleasure, or sport – and specifically the boats that carry them.

Working out of doors up and down the Eastern Coastline and out of his home studio on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, McBride is a well-known and highly respected plein air painter. His work has been juried into numerous shows including “Paint Annapolis,” Plein Air Easton, and The Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational. His outdoor oil sketches and photographs are often used as a point of departure for large scale studio paintings.

Over the last two winter seasons, McBride has been working on a series of paintings from photographs supplied by gallery owner Howard Gallagher. The photos, taken over the past several years, feature midcoast windjammers and classic sailing craft out and about on Penobscot Bay. “Cormorant’s Welcome” is a fine example of this, showing the schooner Stephen Taber ghosting into the evening’s anchorage off Stonington Harbor.

As each human has a fingerprint that identifies his or her individuality, so a painter’s brushwork reveals a unique personality behind the artistry. McBride’s lively pulses of color create movement within the larger context of the work. With artistic influences ranging from Russian Impressionists to mood masters Edward Hopper, Edgar Paine, Emil Gruppe, and Frederick Mulhaupt, McBride is especially intrigued with interpreting the contrast and interplay of light and shadow in his compositions.

Todd Bonita’s work, at first glance, is more reticent but is powerful in a different way. He subjugates his brushwork to bring his subject matter to the fore. That subject matter harks back to his New England coastal childhood. Dories, skiffs, tenders, rowboats – call them what you will, Bonita elevates them to a mystical place apart. His keen draftsmen’s eye for fine detail imparts the work with an almost photographic realism. What photo-realism often cannot convey is depth of feeling. Curiously these quiet boat portraits conjure up profound emotions. Once well-loved but now abandoned in a hidden cove, a scarred lapstrake hull might evoke regret or loneliness. Here floats a visual reminder of entropy.

Conversely, a sense of peace and calm radiates from Todd’s large oil painting “Ripples.” Featuring a nutshell pram designed by Joel White (which is considered by many a cruising sailor to be one of the best rowing/towing and sailing dinghies ever designed), “Ripples” is the third in a series of paintings of this particular boat that we have offered at Camden Falls Gallery. The largest of these pieces to date (measuring 36 x 48 inches), this painting’s significant scale and realistic rendering evoke the sense that one could almost step right into it and row away.

When Bonita turns his attention to figurative subject matter, the people he paints are usually as tough and well-tested as their boats. Clam diggers, lobstermen, and other ocean laborers populate his more complex compositions.

Bonita earned his B.F.A. from the Art Institute of Boston, graduating with Honors in 1996. He continued his graduate studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He also takes intensive workshops through the Paul Ingbretson Atelier in Manchester, NH. His diverse resume includes stints as a commercial freelance illustrator with many of the major book publishers in the US. Bonita has also apprenticed with World Champion chainsaw sculptor Barre Pinske, and has even created designs for the casino gaming industry.

When free to delve into his own projects, Bonita is invariably drawn back to the grace and simplicity of working watercraft, the wellspring of his childhood reveries. Bonita himself writes, “In the end, my primary goal is a composition that is simple and contemplative and there is nothing as simple as that subject, the boat.”

Whether we view the large wind-driven schooner in Kirk McBride’s lively seascapes of contemplate one of Todd Bonita’s “floating lotus” skiffs, we are drawn into a sweet season of salt spray and reflection.

Big Boats, Little Boats” is showing now through mid-July at Camden Falls Gallery. The gallery is open from 10am-5pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-6pm Friday and Saturday, and 11am-5pm on Sunday.