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Visual Arts

Mary Helen Miller '09 - Fishbowl Exhibition

As an artist-in-residence at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island last summer, I worked primarily with oil paints. About 15 people—mostly biologists—lived and worked on the remote island in the Bay of Fundy for nine weeks, and visitors came and went throughout the summer.


Each piece displayed was done on site and at the mercy of the weather and the tide. Conditions on Kent Island can change drastically within a half hour, and the Bay of Fundy tides are known for being the highest in the world. The first two pieces I completed, of the Warden’s House and the Tree Swallow box in the north field, show my attempt to capture iconic images of the island. As the summer progressed, I became less focused on form and more interested in representing people and places on the island through color and brushstroke. I sought to capture the atmosphere of the shire (as we called it), a wooded sanctuary on the island that was a study site for Leach’s Storm-petrels. I was struck by the harmonious placement of the trees among the ferns in there, and I chose a narrow, enclosed format and explored the relationship between the colors of the ferns and the trees.  Though I did not paint the water for the first part of the summer, in the second month I grappled with representing the ocean, both at high and low tides. Finally, I used other students as models as they worked on their own projects—Lisa is entering data on her laptop, and Nate, the other artist, is sketching me as I paint him.


I am enormously grateful to Bowdoin Scientific Station for providing the grant which enabled me to explore painting en plein air and experience the beauty and simplicity life on Kent Island.