What The Light Was Like, Paintings By Marc Boone, On View At Adkins Arboretum

Marc Boone is one of those artists who loves paint and isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty. With palette knife and fingers, this Baltimore artist paints broad bands of blue water and thick clouds backlit with sunlight. His paintings are on view at Adkins Arboretum through Jan. 30. The public is invited to a reception to meet the artist on Sat., Dec. 13 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Most of these friendly, unpretentious paintings are large canvases in oil and wax, but some smaller ones are also in the show, including two watercolors stained with gauzy color. The ocean, the Bay, distant hills and clouds appear in shades of blue and purple occasionally shifting to rose.

Simplified, sometimes to the point that they are hardly more than stripes of color across the canvas, they are inspired by landscapes Boone has visited in Maryland, Massachusetts, his native Idaho and the West Coast. But instead of portraying the details of specific places, he uses his memory of light, color, mood and weather as a starting point.

These are quiet paintings in terms of their large, simple forms, but look up close and you’ll find evidence of layers of color full of fingerprints and the marks of a palette knife scraped boldly across the paint. You’ll see the foam of waves made by scratching paint away to the underlying white in “Oysterville” and surf in “Atlantic” created from ridges of paint troweled on so heavily that they seem almost as thick as the waves themselves.

“I rarely use a brush,” Boone said. Pointing out a large canvas called “Homage to Turner,” he continued, “You can see the fingerprints throughout the painting.”

Like many of these canvases, the surface of this painting has a soft, matte feeling. This comes from combining oil paint with wax into a sensuous mixture that has a slight translucence resembling skin.

Along one edge, you’ll find a slender tree scraped into the paint with a nail. Otherwise, “Homage to Turner” shows only clouds.

“I was in London walking across a bridge and looked up at the light in the clouds and I thought of Turner,” Boone said, referencing the nineteenth-century British artist known for his luminous paintings in which, for the first time in art history, light and atmosphere became more important than the actual landscape he was painting.

Boone speaks casually about his work, but he is well versed in art history. After graduating from Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Ore., he came east to earn an MFA at Baltimore’s Maryland Institute College of Art. He currently teaches at University of Maryland College Park, Anne Arundel Community College and Howard Community College and exhibits his work frequently.

While still living on the West Coast, he had an experience that set him on his path as an artist. At the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Boone first saw Abstract Expressionist paintings.

“It all made sense to me,” he recalled. “It was like an epiphany.”

In the works of artists such as Willem deKooning, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Tobey, he found an approach to painting that was active and spontaneous and gave him the freedom to experiment.

The history of this experimentation can be traced in the remnants of color showing through scrapes in his thick paint and at the edges of his canvases.

“I usually start with a really strong color. I can’t stand white canvas. I get nervous,” he laughed. “I start with the knife and maybe blue-green or red and go up from there. I don’t know what will happen. My teachers were Abstract Expressionists. They had that idea that you find yourself while you’re painting.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, supported in part by the Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through January 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center, located at 12610 Eveland Road adjacent to Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 orinfo@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build a new LEED-certified Arboretum Center and entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.