Gail Spaien: Cottage Bonzai

Gail Spaien Renegade Mirage 7

Cottage Bonzai

Gail Spaien: New Work


On View:  August 29 through September 27, 2019

Opening Reception: Thursday, August 29, 12:30 p.m.

The artist will be present and give a brief introduction of her work.


The A.D. Gallery at UNC Pembroke is proud to present a solo exhibition the work of Gail Spaien.  The exhibition, Cottage Bonzai, investigates the presence and meaning of utopia in the everyday. Inspired by a summer stays in a rustic generational Maine home on an island in Casco Bay, this new series of paintings, tells a  love story of place and season.  Capturing the essence of hypnotic vistas on a reduced scale, the paintings are bonsais of lived experience. Compressing the magical qualities of space and time, Spaien reframes the view to suggest the desire for, and the impossibility of sustaining such perfect conditions.

Featured are paintings fresh from a summer showing at the Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York, NY, as well as site-specific installation completed by the artist that will last only for the duration of this exhibition.    


Gail Spaien has been the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Djerassi Foundation Resident Artists Program in Woodside, CA, Millay Colony for the Arts, Austerlitz, NY and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She has received grant funding from the Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Artist Advancement Grant, and the Maine Arts Commission. Spaien’s group exhibitions include the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA; Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, California; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento,CA; the Portland Museum of Art, the University of New Hampshire Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Portland, Maine. Her one and two person exhibitions include Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Ogunquit, Maine; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Aucocisco Gallery, Portland, George Marshall Store Gallery of the Old York Historical Society, York, ME, and Ellen Miller Gallery in Boston, MA. Reviews and mentions in in notable publications include New American Painting; Sharon Butler’s on-line publication Two Coats of PaintArt New England, the Portland Press Herald, the Boston Globe, and Down East Magazine. Spaien’s work is in the collections of Fidelity Investments, University of New England, the University of Southern Maine, Intuit Corporation and Portland Museum of Art. A Professor of painting and core faculty in the MFA program at the Maine College of Art, Spaien received her BFA from the University of Southern Maine and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is affiliated with the George Marshall Store Gallery in Maine and Ellen Miller Gallery in Boston, MA. 


Inspired by the symbolism, contradiction and pleasure embedded in the traditions of American folk art, Dutch floral painting of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School, I make paintings that depict an idealized view of nature and home. Through the careful construction of a desired view, I paint the world as I would like it to be. Rose-colored glasses are donned, outside disturbances are eliminated and beautiful vistas imagined. Reframing reality, I suggest my desire for and the impossibility of such conditions.

Chronicling the passage of time and the beauty of the landscape outside my studio window in the coastal New England neighborhood where I live, I unify the content of my work around the cycles of nature and domestic activity. My images speak to the poignancy of daily life and touch on themes of well-being and mortality, pleasure and loss. Carefully composing and layering on each painting in a way that consciously echoes the laborer gardening, embroidering, gathering and arranging, my images depict domestic scenes and ocean views. Placement is exacting. Paradise is frozen.

Pondering the meaning and presence of utopia in the everyday, I curate an idealized and intentionally artificial situation, suspending pleasure indefinitely only to find that even with rose-colored glasses on the desire for utopia is unsettling. There is always a sliver of a noticeable reality in the periphery beyond the edge of the glass.