Artist brings Katahdin to Portland

David Little’s record of Mount Katahdin artwork can be found in the Great Reading Room on the 7th floor of the Glickman Library.
Casey Ledoux
David Little’s record of Mount Katahdin artwork can be found in the Great Reading Room on the 7th floor of the Glickman Library.

Posted on November 11, 2013 in Arts & Culture
By Francis Flisiuk

Casey Ledoux

At almost 250 miles away, it’s easy for people in Portland to feel a bit removed from Mount Katahdin, the natural glory that is our state’s highest peak. But now the community can get a unique perspective of the mountain with just a quick trip to Glickman Library.

Portland-based artist David Little, however, has made it his mission to celebrate the mountain through the publication of his book Art of Katahdin. The book pays tribute to Katahdin and to Maine’s beautiful landscape by featuring all of the artistic representations of the mountain ever created, with over 200 images filling its pages. Now students can get an idea of what it’s like to craft an art book when they see Little’s exhibition, Art of Katahdin: The Making of an Art Book. The exhibition is an eye-opening look into the labor intensive procedure that is publishing a book. It’s on display in the 7th floor reading room of the Glickman library, and there will be an opening reception on Nov. 26 with an introduction from Little.

Little’s passion for Katahdin started in 2006 after he participated in the Katahdin Lake Campaign that helped the Trust for Public Land fundraise money to purchase the lake and some of the surrounding land. After successful end of the campaign and after the fundraised money was given to Baxter State Park, Little co-curated an exhibition at the Bates College Museum of Art in 2008 titled, Taking Different Trails: the Artist’s Journey to Katahdin Lake. It was while doing the historic research for this show that Little realized he wanted to do more with his Katahdin research.

“The motive in expanding my research initially was the hope of a larger exhibition to celebrate the story of artists like Frederic Church, Marsden Hartley and James Fitzgerald at Katahdin throughout history,” said Little.

Then after almost seven years of researching, collecting and travelling, Little successfully published Art of Katahdin in May through Downeast Publishing. The exhibition allows you look at the entire process as a whole without having to face any of the challenges associated with creating a book of this kind. According to Little, in between designing the layout, forming the budget and crafting the final edits, the book-making process is incredibly lengthy and difficult.

“The final edits and the detailed-oriented work of looking at every word, sentence, comma, period, letter and spacing was the most time consuming task of all and the most critical to the success of the book,” said Little.

Art of Katahdin is the first comprehensive record of what Little calls the “Katahdin Tradition.” The mountain has been revered by people for centuries, starting with the Native American Penobscot Tribe. The “Katahdin Tradition” stems from the paintings, drawings, poems, legends and folklore of the majestic peak that represent the experiences of artists, residents and travelers in the area. Little’s comprehensive book showcases all of the artwork that has ever depicted Katahdin from traditional pencil sketches to more colorful pieces and contemporary works. The pages are filled with diverse portrayals, images and anecdotes. According to Little, it soon will become clear why the mountain is such a magnet for artists. “From each cardinal direction,” Little wrote in his book, “Katahdin’s aspect is utterly different.”

According to Little, his favorite piece of art featured in the book is by Cecil Palmer, a Massachusetts artist published for the first time in the book. “Palmer’s watercolors and pen and ink sketches are so intimate and lovely they struck a chord with me as very special for inclusion in the book,” said Little.

“I hope that students at USM with feel a connection to Katahdin, to the outdoors or even just to writing and publishing in general,” said Little.