Left to right: David Vickery, Arduina and John Paul Caponigro, David Sears and Victor Goldsmith.
Left to right: David Vickery, Arduina and John Paul Caponigro, David Sears and Victor Goldsmith.
As art places go, Cushing might be best known as the town where Andrew Wyeth had a summer home and painted his neighbors, the Olsons — their house on Hathorne Point Road, which served as the backdrop of Wyeth’s most famous painting, Christina’s World, is still there and attracts a steady stream of visitors who now flop on the grass for selfies. But the peninsula town has taken in many artists over the years, some of whom have made a tradition of opening their studios once or twice a year and inviting their neighbors, the public and collectors in to see how it all works.

On the weekend of August 3 and 4, eight Cushing artists will hold open studios as part of the Friends of the Historic South Cushing Meetinghouse’s “Cushing Salt and See” artists’ studio and garden tour, Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Recently, The Free Press talked with five of the participating artists about their work.

David Vickery

Any contemporary realist working in coastal Maine is going to have to reckon with the Wyeth legacy. David Vickery, whose home and painting studio are just up the road from the Olson House, said he used to be inspired by Andrew Wyeth, “but I’ve been painting for 30 years, so I think I’m off doing my own thing.”

Vickery paints in oils and works from photographs, transferring the major elements onto wood panels using a grid to avoid the puzzles of proportion and perspective faced by plein-air painters. Working from photos means he can paint outdoor scenes from indoors, and winter scenes in the summer. The approach lets him capture fleeting moments — a passing cloud formation or the raking June light as it hits the edges of weathered clapboards — and change any parts of the photo he doesn’t like, whether for technical reasons or creative effect.

“It’s getting it to feel real, rather than look real, ultimately,” he said.

A big part of this is capturing the light, which he does in part with a color chord technique taught to him by Belfast painter Linden Frederick, whose scenes of transitional times of day — when the sky isn’t fully dark but the lights are on — some of Vickery’s paintings resemble.

“It took a few years to learn to realize that was the important thing,” he said. “That’s something everyone relates to. Everyone has their own experience of light, and it’s usually a positive one.”

David Vickery’s studio: 5 Maloney Lane, off Hathorne Point Road

What to look for: Vickery excels at painting glass, from clear marbles to views into the dark interiors of buildings on sunny days.

John Paul and Arduina Caponigro

Photographers John Paul and Arduina Caponigro were early adopters of digital image editing (when the Smithsonian was collecting work ephemera from John Paul for a time capsule, they wanted his first computer), and both use their cameras to point to the heavy parts of the human experience that aren’t always visible. But their approaches are very different.

“Hers is everyday magic,” John Paul said. “Mine is big miraculous, dreamland magic.”

Where Arduina likes her cameras small and ready, John Paul packs the big guns and journeys to parts of the world that tend to inspire awe — from the ice of Antarctica and Greenland to the deserts of Namibia and Death Valley — and opens himself up to it. He speaks about the experiences in a guided-meditation-worthy baritone that seems to have been cleansed of all traces of irony.

In a video about his work, he describes the experience of coming upon an iceberg in Pleno Bay, Antarctica, that had been weathered into something resembling Greek architecture: “We had a powerful feeling that what we were seeing may never have been seen before, and would never be seen again, at least, not quite like this.”

In recent images, he superimposed photos taken by the Hubble telescope on his landscapes. Describing the combination, he referred to cultures that are more in tune with mysticism. “The notion of verisimilitude and truth is much more complex than Westerners might want to maintain,” he said.

In some ways, Arduina’s view through the camera lens more closely resemble that of John Paul’s father, the renowned photographer Paul Caponigro, who likewise managed to find the supernatural in everyday moments — in one of Paul Caponigro’s best-known photos the flecked skin of an apple resembles a galaxy of stars. In Arduina’s hands, a girl flying a kite at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico becomes the subject of a surrealist scene and a pair ponies leaning into each other under live oaks in Georgia suggest Hobbit-scale fantasy.

Caponigros’ studio: 73 Cross Road

What to look for: John Paul and Arduina recently collaborated on a series that features photos overlaid on maps of the land, sea and constellations.

David Sears

David Sears’ work is the odd duck of the bunch, sometimes literally. His life-sized bird and fish sculptures draw from the folk tradition of buoys but sometimes end in an animal that is as bright as a piñata or a fishing lure with jagged teeth and cartoon-like gaping eyes. Other times they melt into elegant wood-toned modernist sculptures. The Matinicus artist, who winters and keeps a studio in Cushing, makes images based on nautical charts that are inspired by traditional quilts, and paints rounded sea stones in a way that recalls the work of Alan Magee. Sears and Magee grew up near each other in Pennsylvania but didn’t meet until a couple years ago when the older, more established, artist asked to see Sears’ work. “We’ve become friends, but I was nervous as hell,” Sears said. “He’s been a major influence on my work for a long time. It was like Eric Clapton handing me a guitar and saying, L­et’s jam.”

Unlike Magee, Sears only takes the realism so far, embellishing his rocks with aboriginal patterns of dots that leave them looking something like sea urchin shells.

“I want to explore where folk art becomes more serious art, if you could make that argument,” he said.

David Sears’ studio: 6 Hyler Cove Lane, off River Road

What to look for: Real porcupine quills coming out of animals that aren’t porcupines.

Victor Goldsmith

Showing movement in sculpture is tricky. Sweeping forms that suggest fast, flowy motions come to mind. Victor Goldsmith’s wood carvings look more like they would move slowly — that if you were to reanimate the organic clusters, you might find them in the middle of falling over or trying to get up. Goldsmith sees their attitudes and names them accordingly — the politician, the prom queen, the student, the barfly. He also encourages viewers to pick them up and set them down different ways. “Ideally, they’d be suspended in space and you’d see them tumbling end over end,” he said.

He recalled, on one occasion, telling a group of elementary school students who were visiting his home that they could disregard the standard rule about not touching the art. Their eyes lit up, he said, and by the end of the visit, they were climbing on a large sculpture named after the jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

Goldsmith’s home is filled with sculptures of all sizes, most of them carved from dark hardwoods, but some in blonde, and a precious few with painted areas. Most of the newer ones would fit in a messenger bag. His earlier works look similar but are much larger and, accordingly, required that he make a clay model, measure it, then laminate thick planks together into the rough shape before he ever picked up a chisel. A?more recent series was inspired, in size, by splitting firewood.

Sometimes the wood points the direction to the finished sculpture, as with a piece of burl wood that resembled a horse head after he had removed the rot, or a piece that he broke while he was attempting, in a period of existential frustration, to carve an “unusable bowl.”

“More often the wood tells me what it can’t do and I tell it what I want it to do,” he said.

Victor Goldsmith’s Studio: 34 Pleasant Point Road

What to look for: If the art is small enough to pick up, ask if you may.