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Bo Bartlett at the Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando, FL

By Matthew J. Palm

Waves crash. The skeleton of a huge ship rises through scaffolding. Fishermen haul in their catch. Shoreline plants take on a delicate purple hue.

These are images of Maine, and the Pine Tree State is at center stage in the latest exhibition at Orlando Museum of Art.

The Wyeths and American Artists in Maine” will be on view through April 23. It’s a chance to see works by three generations of the famed Wyeth family of artists — N.C., Andrew and Jamie — as well as others. The exhibit is also a chance to reflect, or learn about, the significance of that northern neck of the woods to the visual arts.

Maine has been an important part of American art history for two centuries,” says OMA’s Hansen Mulford. “Artists were drawn to the landscape as part of our natural and cultural identity.”

Curated by the Farnsworth Art Museum of Rockland, Maine, the exhibit shows 53 works dating from the mid-19th century to contemporary times.

Meanwhile, the Mennello Museum of American art offers a companion exhibit of sorts, displaying large-scale oil paintings by contemporary artist Bo Bartlett, who has a summer home in Maine. Like the Wyeths, the people and places of our nation inspire him.

Bo Bartlett is very American,” wrote Andrew Wyeth. “He is fresh, he’s gifted, and he’s what we need in this country.”

In a nifty case of cross-promotion, four of Bartlett’s giant works — that didn’t fit at the Mennello — are on view at OMA.

We are presenting work that spans two decades and considers notions of family, the American South, the mighty ocean, time, life and death,” says Shannon Fitzgerald, the Mennello’s executive director. “Through landscape and portraiture, innovation and scale, Bartlett's distinct realism is grand, epic, and meaningful as we contemplate our own narratives and place within our vast world.”

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