Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Peaks Island: a safe haven for artists

Posted on September 24, 2018 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Elliot Caron
Elliot Caron
Elliot Caron
Elliot Caron

By: Lydia Libby, Web Editor

For artists like Molly Tracey, Kristen Chalmers, and Diane Wienke, Peaks Island provides a quiet and inspiring space for them to work. “The island is beautiful and inspiring,” said artist and owner of the Peaks Island art gallery Gem, Kristen Chalmers.

So what attracts artists to Peaks? Well, oftentimes, the homes in which many of the artists live and work in were owned previously by their relatives. After speaking with ocularist, artist and New Orleans native Molly Tracey, Molly’s great-aunt Helen Caroline Muller owned the house that she currently resides and works out of on Peaks Island. Both homes that Tracey now owns were both built in 1905 by Payson Smith, a Maine educator. The homes have been in Tracey’s family since the 1920s. In one of Tracey’s homes, there were three photographs hanging in Tracey’s dining room that Payson Smith’s son, Norman Smith took. Two of those photographs were when Norman visited New Orleans, and one of the photos was of Mount Katahdin.

Kristen Chalmers, the owner of the Gem Art Gallery, also had a grandmother who owned a home on Peaks Island. The Gem is part of the house that Kristen’s grandmother once owned, where Kristen now lives. The Gem is located at 62 Island Street and is a short distance from where the ferry docks on the island. “Our work is inspired by the Island”, Chalmers said. Kristen said she has lived year-round on the island for the last 15 years and was a graduate of Cape Elizabeth High School.

Artist Diane Wienke, who displays her work at the Gem gallery and is a New Jersey native, said she had friends that wanted to visit the island, and when she got there, she never wanted to leave. “A like-minded person wants to move out here,” said Wienke. Wienke said that art exhibits on the island typically begin in early May and end Columbus Day weekend.

Most of the work on the island was primarily nautical or earthy scapes or sculptures, similar to what you may see on Peaks Island. In addition to Tracey being one of 10 ocularists in the world, working on painting contact lenses for big stars such as Helen Mirren and Leonardo DiCaprio, she also is a painter in her spare time. Her works are inspired by the ocean, which came as no surprise seeing as her house overlooked the ocean. All of the materials she uses to paint on are recycled materials she finds around her homes. “This is a really good place for subject matter,” said Tracey. Tracey also said that Peaks Island was a great place for artists to draw or paint from life. Tracey mentioned she may open a gallery of her own on the Island in the near future to display her acrylic paintings. Before moving out to Peaks Island, Tracey was a former art teacher in Golden, Colorado.

Some artwork that Wienke created had earthy tones to them which were displayed in the Gem gallery. It seemed the artists I spoke with could all agree the beauty of the island gives them inspiration to live and work out there year round. Wienke’s husband also has a clothing line called Blood and Whiskey displayed in the Gem Art Gallery, which have a worn, natural look to them.

No matter where each of the artists come from, or if they live there seasonally or live there year-round, Peaks Island offers space to think. The island has incredible views overlooking Casco Bay to spark ideas for creation. The seclusion of the island helps the artists be connected with one another to collaborate and bounce ideas around.

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