Max Moran’s plein air paintings highlight the East End

09/16/2018 5:55 AM |

For two decades, landscapes found on the East End have inspired plein air impressionist painter Max Moran.

Mr. Moran, a North Forker by way of Ohio and Martha’s Vineyard, found solace in the open fields and atmosphere he found when he moved to Baiting Hollow in 1996. “The North Fork had a New England feel about it. It was an agrarian culture. There was so much to mine,” he said during a recent interview at his Jamesport studio.

There, Mr. Moran was putting the finishing touches on a series of never-before-seen paintings for “Illuminations,” a solo exhibit that opened at the William Ris Gallery on Saturday.

The approximately twenty paintings featured in the month-long show are a dreamlike amalgamation of cloudscapes seen at different times of day. “As a kid, I always had my nose up against the window looking out at the clouds,” Mr. Moran said. “I’m tapping back into that nostalgia, and still have the same feeling and awe.”

Clouds, to Mr. Moran, are a “visual opera.” People look skyward for many reasons: to pass time, to pray, to contemplate, he said. “We get great cloud formations out here. By now, I can almost see a good one coming,” Mr. Moran said, adding that painting in plein air adds a sense of adrenaline.

After all, clouds are fleeting. “That’s life, though. It doesn’t sit still, does it?” he mused.

Mr. Moran says his knowledge of the terrain — what’s planted in which farm fields, how the light moves across them at certain times throughout the day — gives him an intuitive advantage when location scouting. Despite the romanticization of plein air painting, Mr. Moran says it isn’t all about straw hats and sunshine. “It’s not as easy as people think. There’s bugs, there’s wind, the occasional lightning strike.”

While painting in a field on Sound Avenue, for example, a gust of wind moved across and swept his canvas across the roadway. “It picked up some grass and gravel,” he said, that now add texture to the image.

Other impressionists could attest to this. Last year, a small grasshopper was found embedded in the paint of van Gogh’s “Olive Trees” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

Landscapes, Mr. Moran said, are universal. “I think we all have the ability to see and appreciate landscape artwork,” he said. “It’s ageless.”

“Illuminations,” Mr. Moran’s 16th solo exhibition on the North Fork, runs through Sunday, Oct. 14, and Mr. Moran will give an artist talk Saturday, Sept. 29, from 2 to 4 p.m.

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Photo caption: Impressionist painter Max Moran’s solo exhibition, ‘Illuminations,’ kicks off the fall season at the William Ris Gallery in Jamesport. It opened Sept. 15. (Tara Smith photo) 

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