A dispatch from the Homer High School Fellows

A dispatch from the Homer High School Fellows

Our seven Homer High School Fellows are in their fifth week of working at the PMA. Between learning the galleries and designing tours for others teens, we’ve spent some time outside of the museum, interpreting the meaning of “place.” Here’s one Fellow’s take on a field trip we took to the PMA’s Winslow Homer Studio.

"A Day at the Winslow Homer Studio" by Genevieve Vogel

Last week, the Homer High School Fellows joined local Maine artist Molly Brown, who is known for “MollyMaps,” on an expedition to the Winslow Homer Studio on Prouts Neck. We set out on a foggy morning to make the classic, scenic Maine journey, passing bobbing boats and shingled coastal homes. The usual view of the islands from the Studio was clouded over, but the fog added to the effect of the temperamental and moody landscape that Homer captured so well in his paintings. We enjoyed our lunch on the lawn next to the small trees that Homer himself cared for. Then we began a tour of the Studio, exploring with our eyes the intricate details he left, including his name etched into a window pane. His thoughts are still scrawled on the walls, as if he was using the walls as one giant Post-it Note, and his pipe is still on the mantelpiece. A photo album on the table chronicled his life, and included pictures of him on the porch that we later posed on for a group picture.

We continued our exploration with Molly, who led us through our first activity. She instructed us to draw a map of our lives up to now, with special attention to place. The meaning of her directions was up for interpretation, and we all had different ways of representing the map. Some of us used small motifs to represent a moment on our path and/or the place that went along with it. One of mine was my couch; it represents the death of my grandfather and the time when my mom was sick. I have strong memories of sitting on that couch, and for me, it also represents the sad aspects of my life so far. The red door of my old house in Evanston, Illinois, represents the happy times when I was younger.

A bit later, we headed to the rocky shore of Prouts Neck to reflect and meditate about place. I wrote poems about my feelings about having a lack of specific places with a strong meaning to me. I find that when thinking about place, it is difficult to find somewhere that I feel connected to enough to dive into explaining; it feels intrusive and rude to even mentally claim something as mine when everyone can experience it. I wondered if Homer had any regrets in sharing his views of Prouts Neck, and if it lessened his connection in the opposite way that I feel towards place. After a final look around to spot the rock featured in Weatherbeaten, we left the quiet coastal studio of Winslow Homer.

What surprised me about Homer was his dedication to his work. He first came to Prouts Neck with his family for his brother’s honeymoon and fell in love with the location. He then left New York for Maine, living without electricity in a converted carriage house, with only a narrowed-down collection of things. He lived in quiet solace, studying the landscape to the point where he could paint not only what he saw but the feelings behind the place. He only left in the winter once his fire bucket’s water froze. The bucket still hangs next to the fireplace. 

Sitting on the rocks at Prouts Neck was not exactly like a painting. The waves moved in and out, and fog didn’t care that it was obstructing the view. Overall, it felt like any other, be it beautiful, rocky coast. I think what makes it special is Homer’s interpretation of the place and his experiences there. These emotions and interpretation are, to me, what makes his paintings. His work was not the direct copy of a scene he saw before him but an interpretation of a place and his experience with it. He was the master of his own interpretation and when he changed a painting he was adjusting his vision, to fit how he felt it should be. To me, his unique interpretation of landscape separates him from the expanse of Maine landscape painters.

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August 7, 2017
Associate Educator for Youth Learning

Louisa, a Portland resident, has worked in museum and arts education for 10 years. She believes in the transformative power of art and that everyone has something to teach and has something to learn. When designing and implementing programs, she aims to use art as a vehicle to encourage empathy and social bridging, and to foster deep, intergenerational communication. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, she enjoys honing her own artistic practice, and spending time outside with her husband Nick and baby daughter, Colette.