Tina Pesce, an artist who lived in the village of Sandy Point until her death in August, painted murals in her home and smaller works, including this painting. Credit: Courtesy of Meg Haskell

“Art is a line around your thoughts” — Gustav Klimt

I was looking across the water at the horizon. That view always approaches from my periphery until it meets dead center in front of me. This line, squeezed between sea and sky, is a tether for my thoughts to grab onto while the world turns. Maybe the horizon is like that line that begins in every work of art, linking us together, making us whole.

Every artist begins by looking into a blank space, be it a sheet of paper, a stark white linen canvas, an empty potter’s wheel or a camera’s viewfinder. Over time that empty space garners attention. So the artist lays down a line, then color, emotion, attitude. When finished, it tells a story — a time stamp of where the artist has been and where we can possibly go. Like the horizon, art connects us.

For me, art is about following that line of intent an artist places within their work. It is their whisper in my ear as I stand admiring a painting, a photo or a sculpture. My habit inside a museum or gallery is to follow that line as it directs me. Never following a designated path or the museum’s guide to the historical journey of an artist’s work — the line finds me, and I follow it.

Today, artists such as Wyeth, Homer, Monet and the other Impressionists are my companions. Early on in my life, I found the Hudson River artists Frederic Church, Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt. For me, the spaces they filled were of light — pure, magical light.

Before that, it was the glorious English landscapes of John Constable, the whimsical movements in bold color of Marc Chagall, the thick heaping layers of emotion in paintings by Van Gogh, along with the subtle stillness placed on canvas by Georgia O’Keefe, that still whisper to me. I revisit them all — a large family of relatives — each with a distinct, yet connected line. Better still, all of it combined is an intrinsic memory of time and place embraced within me, making my life better.

I think all art is a continuation of a single line laid down a long time ago. Archeologists once thought it first occurred in the cave drawings found in France and Spain. It is now believed that the 45,000 year-old “spray-painted like” handprints and animal drawings recently discovered in Sulawesi, an Indonesian island east of Borneo, predate those, making the Sulawesi art the very first to be placed upon stone for an appreciative audience of art admirers — humanity. Art makes us human.

This place where I live harbors some great talent. Anywhere you go there is artistic talent waiting to be found. Like those distant cave drawings, you just need to look for it. The lines these artists create and the spaces they eventually fill permeate one’s soul as both artist and admirer share time together in a place they both love. The art an artist creates is a piece of that moment for you to take home.

The horizon I look at from my window touches every small coastal village that pokes and prods this Maine landscape. From each artist’s hand the line begins then travels on from the roar of Machias’ Bad Little Falls to the quiet coves and harbors of Cutler, Lubec and Eastport.

At night, celestial skies explode in lines of starlight as shutters click, capturing the moment. Daytime brings thoughts with the light, and potters calculate their first touch of moist clay; painters speak in pencil or brush; weavers stitch a horizon of thought. It’s all so perfect, yet different for every artist — hence, the magic of art.

The art patron, the serious art collector, the tourist visiting from away, you and me, we, collectively, owe these artists thanks for taking the time to create something that brings pleasure to so many while connecting us together as one.  All art finds the horizon, does it not?  

One last thought as I close my eyes on the view in front of me:  Leave the pebble on the beach, the feather on the ground, the bits of colored beach glass, the fragile clam, the spiny sea urchin and the crusty orange lobster claw for others to find. Instead, venture into a studio or gallery, listen to the whisper and follow the line. That work of art meant to be a part of you will find you, filling your space and will eventually become a part of your life.

RJ Heller, Down East contributor

RJ Heller is a journalist, essayist, photographer, author, an avid reader and an award-winning book critic who enjoys sailing, hiking and many other outdoor pursuits. He lives in Starboard Cove.