December 15, 2017
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Artwork in Machias courthouse reflects life in Washington County

By Johanna S. Billings, BDN Staff
Updated:

MACHIAS, Maine — Lobster boats crowded in an offshore section of water in Cutler. A lighthouse in Lubec. Two views from the belfry atop the Washington County Courthouse.

All of these are among the nine pastel paintings by East Machias resident Jude Valentine that were installed on Oct. 5 in the Washington County Courthouse.

Two more paintings by Valentine are in storage and are to be installed in the courthouse when the $8.3 million courthouse renovation project is completed in December.

“It’s like a once in a lifetime to have 11 of your paintings go into a public building,” said Valentine. “They’ll be there forever. I’m really honored.”

The paintings were created as part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Percent for Art program, which allots up to 1 percent of a building project’s total budget for the acquisition and installation of artwork. The Maine Arts Commission sent out a request for proposals for the artwork in July 2014.

In February, Valentine was notified she was one of three finalists, and in March, she learned she was selected.

“By April, I was up in the belfry,” said Valentine, whose concept included four paintings of Machias as seen from the belfry on top of the courthouse — one facing each direction.

“I did preliminary photos to get a sense of the layout of the pieces,” she said.

In May, she returned to the belfry to get a sense of the colors that would appear in her paintings, and in June, she went up once more to get a sense of the lighting.

“I went with the early morning light because we are the sunrise county,” Valentine said.

“I didn’t actually start painting them until, like, May or June,” she said, adding she was finished in August. Over the summer, she worked on the paintings at the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation, an artists’ retreat in the Cranberry Isles.

In addition to the four directional scenes of Machias, Valentine did three paintings looking at our “neighbors” — Canada, the Atlantic Ocean and the Passamaquoddy. Tribal Historian Donald Soctomah provided input on the composition of the Passamaquoddy painting, she said.

The final four paintings represent Washington County’s traditional industries. Blueberrying was represented by a scene showing a field along Route 192 in the fall at dawn. Forestry was represented by a logging scene, fishing was represented by a scene showing lobster boats in Cutler, and tourism was represented by a painting of the lighthouse in Lubec.

County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald said Valentine understands Washington County and that is reflected in her work.

“She understands the attitude of people in Washington County and that is ‘we are what we are,’” said Fitzgerald.

Of course, an installation at a courthouse comes with special requirements. Because of their location, all of the pieces, which each measure 22 by 30 inches, had to be framed using shatterproof acrylic instead of glass so that they couldn’t be broken and used as a weapon, Valentine said. They also needed special security hangers to attach them securely to the wall.

 

 


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