‘Ed Parker: Painting the Story’ on exhibit at Gleason Fine Art

“Ship’s Musicians on a Right Whale,” by Ed Parker.

Gleason Fine Art hosts “Ed Parker: Painting the Story,” on exhibit from Aug. 20 through Sept. 22.

The Southport resident is universally acknowledged as one of America’s leading marine painters working in the folk art tradition. It is also fair to say that his creations are far more sophisticated than the term “folk art” might suggest.

For each of Ed Parker’s complex and expertly composed  paintings, the artist sifts through his vast knowledge of all things nautical to select nuggets of history and humor that, using his unerring sense of design, detail, and color, he brings to life in a new painting. The result is a work of art that tells a story, usually with embellishment, always with humor, and generally with close attention to an actual historical event.

In “Heading Out to Ram Island,” Parker depicts a man and woman ferrying a dory of sheep out to “Ram Island.” At one time, sheep were often delivered to an island where they could safely graze untended for the summer; thus, there are many “Ram Islands” along the Maine coast. In Parker’s version, a stalwart fellow captains his boat, while his dog stands guard at the bow; the single ram strikes a lordly pose at the stern. Sharp eyes will note that the ram is not “in” the boat but “on” it. Lambs peak at the trailing dory filled with the mamas, who look a touch perplexed at finding themselves in such a tippy craft.

In “Ship’s Musicians Stranded on a Right Whale,” Parker has taken a true story — a group of musicians entertaining the crew of the battleship Maine — and turned it into a succession of disasters for the musicians. In Parker’s imagination, the musicians were terrible, so after the Maine, they were cast adrift in the North Atlantic. Next, they found themselves suspended from Minot Light, and finally, still in their rowboat, they landed on top of a right whale. Still they play on, or in Parker’s words, “These guys just don’t know when to stop.” It should be noted that, although surprised at this turn of events, the right whale is clearly having a great time.

If you are looking for a little humor during these strange late-summer days of 2020, Parker’s wonderful creations on display in “Painting the Story” should bring a smile to your face, or perhaps even a laugh out loud. There are sailboats and steamers, lighthouses and farmhouses, dogs, cats, and a sprinkling of fierce sea serpents, all engaged in likely, as well as quite unlikely, goings on.

“Ed Parker: Painting the Story” opens Aug. 20 at Gleason Fine Art.

Gleason Fine Art is at 31 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor. Although no reception is planned, the gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call Gleason Fine Art at 207-633-6849, email the gallery at info@gleasonfineart.com, or go to www.gleasonfineart.com.

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