The Kennebunkport-based artist Brad Maushart doesn’t have a cell phone. When he strolls out of his downtown Kennebunkport gallery, f-8, for a coffee, he brings along the old cordless. The other locals laugh; Brad loves it. Social media may have its appeal, but, “I’d rather put my energy into my art,” he explains.
Technology and the constant connectedness that comes with it may not be Brad’s thing – but human contact is. His gallery, a rustic, wood-clad barn, warm in every sense, feels like home; his manner, too.
When I called him over a year after visiting his gallery, we easily spent an hour chatting. And when we meet a few weeks later at a vernissage at M Galerie in Boston’s South End, recently opened by Brad’s daughter Madison and her colleague Mitch, the conversation flowed as if we’ve known each other for years.
That ease of connection, understanding and clear fascination with other humans is also at the heart of Brad’s art. There’s an intense intimacy and humanity to his work, a clear empathy for and interest in his subjects. Brad prefers to work quickly to capture singular moments, establishing a clear rapport with the model that is immediately palpable to the viewer.
You get the sense that he is able to communicate the encounters on paper or canvas almost as rapidly as he is able to glean the essence of a person or moment in real life. And being privy to that passing moment makes us, the viewers, feel an immediate, urgent connection to what Brad has set before us.
Brad graduated from art school is 1973, and later went back to school for photography. Not surprisingly, he prefers film to digital, and returned to it after a period working with commercial photography. One day, he was invited to join a drawing class, and the life drawing in art school came right back. He hasn’t stopped drawing since.
Interestingly, Brad’s paintings have found an especially enthusiastic following in Montreal – mere hours but in many ways a world away. The puritanism that can typify our New England tastes tends to stop at the border, leaving our northern neighbors to enjoy nudes more comfortably, with less hesitation.
Brad’s method has been different from the start. He produced numerous works while the class worked away at one. “I like an intuitive, fast approach,” he says. “I like my work to have energy in it. And I try to throw in something that’s different.” Something that makes it a Brad.
That intimacy has universal appeal, whether you happen to be a couple from Boston making a 48-hour escape to the alternate reality that is Maine’s coastal towns – or a couple of Hollywood celebrities. A couple of days before I first met Brad in his gallery, Courtney Cox and her boyfriend had become f-8 customers, purchasing several photographs (although Brad, ethereally disconnected as he is from the gossip columns, didn’t realize it until a star-struck neighbor explained).
Brad’s ability to capture fleeting moments is, no doubt, linked to his first photography background. Today, he works in both mediums. But, in a provocative twist, he’s swapped their essence: he paints quickly, photographically (in approach, not result), careful not to overwork the moment. But he produces his photographs with a slowness that defies the instant process: the giant prints below spent a year hanging on the outside of the gallery, weathering every Maine storm to develop a textured, storied patina. The prints are 6×6 feet, and Brad only does one per year.
Brad’s latest outdoor photo aging project has many passersby asking why there’s a Soviet soldier on the gallery wall. Trompe l’oeil spoiler: It’s a New York City doorman. After a year, it will be even harder to tell: the darks will lighten and the photograph will appear even more historic and impactful in its subtlety.
Brad says that his painting and photography work draw very different clientele: “People who like my paintings don’t like my photographs, and vice versa,” he explains, laughing. But it is precisely the extreme juxtaposition that makes f-8 visits such a dynamic experience. From the intimate solo encounter to the shared, accessible public experience – these are highly relatable moments we can all engage with and understand.
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If you visit Kennebunkport, be sure your f-8 visit includes a stroll around the barn to see how the doorman is faring. Let me know what you find.