In the Chase’s Daily Perimeter Gallery, bustling with people and produce, hangs an exhibit of paintings by two very interesting Maine artists, Breehan James and Alexae Levin. On first glance, their two approaches couldn’t be more different: James is clearly working in the landscape tradition, while Levin explores highly detailed abstraction. Yet the curator, Hilary Irons, a Portland painter herself, has chosen to bring James and Levin together. One might ask why.

James’s work finds its foundation in direct visual observation of the forests, lakes and wildlife surrounding her family’s cottage nestled in a deep Maine woods beside a lake with its islands, wildlife, day and night skies, and attentive human presence. Her closely observed watercolors lovingly explore and document detail after detail in carefully imagined strokes of distinct high-value color that shimmer and ultimately evoke a dream as much as they describe a place.

From woodgrain and ceiling tiles to the dappled shadows on a roof, to a hand-carved woodpecker door knocker and the tangle of a forest floor, her brushstrokes build a complex personal vocabulary of emotional familiarity and connection. This intimate weaving sets the stage for her studio painting, which further explores the spirit of her experiences in unfolding abstractions.

In the large paintings, color becomes symbolic, flowers float skyward like summer scents carrying insect calls.A hazy moon lights lilac clouds and spills across a vast cerulean pool connecting above and below. As the painting departs from reality, the abstraction in the overlaid imagery engages the imagination. To anyone who has spent a lakeside summer night in Maine, all that is missing is the distant echoing of loons.

Alexae Levin’s work shares this detailed and intimate abstraction but explores the imagination differently. Here, at first glance, is a seeming symmetricality painted with an almost austere complexity. On further observation, a dense and highly energetic geometry seems to rule the images more than the symmetry, which is not absolute at all, but thoroughly handmade and personal, with small repetitive strokes almost obsessive with invention filling in and energizing the spaces.

The large central forms create an architecture that sometimes resolves into the intersecting hieratic plans and elevations of temples, and just as often into elaborately constructed female presences, both earthy and spiritual, sometimes bristling and confrontative. The largest works are built of literally thousands of small interacting strokes that vibrate with energy. The colors are carefully chosen, sometimes acidic, sometimes rich and warm. Often close adjacent harmonies dominate with near complements bursting out and accenting their surroundings. The forms within and around the central figures swirl, explode and layer in grids and curves full of gesture, repetition, and variation left to right. Though seemingly diagrammatic and abstract, Levin’s figures teem with interior life and intensity.

The universe exhibits an underlying geometry born of energy in almost every form we experience — human, chemical, cosmic. Levin very consciously seems to be tapping into this source that constantly surrounds us.

Breehan James comes at experience through an intimate investigation of familiarity that leads through abstraction to dreams. Alexae Levin begins with an intense abstract concept and develops deep personal and aesthetic sensations through an almost hypnotic intricacy. Nearly mirroring each other, they both reach for a magic beyond the visible.

“Magic Mirror” runs through July 28. Perimeter Gallery is at Chase’s Daily, 96 Main Street, Belfast. Gallery hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 338-0555 or email

“Magic Mirror” is presented concurrently with “O Horizon” at Waterfall Arts, featuring the paintings of Hilary Irons and Jarid Del Deo, and running through July 19.