There is something about Monhegan, ME that draws local artist Corlis Carroll to the artists’ island community. It may be how the low rising sun casts long shadows across its rolling hills, it could be the rich history of housing America’s first impressionist artists, but for nearly two decades she has called it home.
For four days, Carroll will open the doors to her two-story bungalow at 1855 Western Ave. in Guilderland, to showcase a gallery of work depicting the lost art of painted pictures.
“The art world is quite fickle. Sometimes we invest in art, and sometimes we don’t. And, it’s never clear as when and why, or how it goes. I think art is a really good investment. I think art from Monhegan Island is a very good investment because it’s a historical place. People have been practicing there for over a hundred years. All the greats have painted. All the great Impressionists since the American Impressionists started making noise.”
Carroll is a self-described “late bloomer.” Prior to earning a Bachelor’s degree in art from the University at Albany, she had picked up the camera. For eight years, uninstructed, she would capture scenes, telling stories along the way. Once she graduated, she took a housekeeping job in Monhegan.
Monhegan, or Monhegan Island, is a community of 69 residents, still captured by the Victorian Age. No cars are allowed on the island. Those who visit do so by mail boat. There’s a one-room school house to teach the handful of children between kindergarten and eighth grade. It also serves as the village’s social hall. Carroll’s home has no electricity. Gas powers the lights, the heat and the refrigerator. She now has a small generator to power her computer and cell phone.
While on the island, she took to painting, learning composition, lighting, shadows and colors. She felt empowered as strangers would approach, asking if one of her paintings was “spoken for.” But, as her paintings sold, she said she needed to get back to photography. Upon taking a few courses in photography, she was introduced to photography painting.
Color photography was still in its infancy in the early 1900s. The process of reproducing color onto a photograph was more familiar in science laboratories than within the common man’s home. There are, however, photographers like Wallace Nutting who applied oils, dyes and watercolor paints onto black and white photos.
“If you got married between 1901 and 1941, chances are someone gave you a Wallace Nutting as a Wedding Day gift,” said Carroll. “It was in every middle class American home. It was affordable.”
In the pictures Carroll currently has on display, there are discernible differences in technique. While some photographs closely resemble color film photography, others appear similar to the color pull technique, where the entire composition appears black and white, except the subject may be washed in red, for example. Such is the case with one of Nutting’s pieces depicting early Colonial life. It, too, appears black and white except for a faint brown color coming from the floor boards.
Carroll said between 1901 and 1941, Nutting had sold more than 10 million pieces of his work.
“In my estimation Nutting and the other guys – Fred Thompson, David Davidson and Charles Sawyer
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