Prey exhibitions highlight new work focused on Maine

Blue Water Fine Arts Gallery, in Port Clyde village, is home to annual summer exhibitions by artist Barbara Ernst Prey. Presently, two notable exhibitions are underway: “New Oil Paintings and Prints” and “Inflection Points: 40 years Painting Maine.” The former is the first exhibition of her small oil paintings depicting local scenes, which represents a new direction in Prey’s work.  Prey notes that these new paintings are “something I’ve wanted to explore for a while, something very different and mostly architectural.” The latter exhibition highlights new watercolors and also new oil paintings in two series: Village View and Seavy. Many of the works on display this summer reflect Prey’s historic ties to the Maine coast as well as her career path as a professional artist.

“I am New York-based but have deep roots to this area as my family were the first settlers of Vinalhaven, North Haven and the midcoast area,” Prey explains. “Many of the harbors, like Carver Harbor or Calderwood Neck, are named after them.” These roots, dating back 250 years, are the inspirational source for her work now and into the future as she sees it.

The roots of her artistry also have an ancestral source. Born in New York, Prey’s mother was head of the Design Department at Pratt Institute. “We would go out painting together and also would paint in her large studio in our home,” says Prey. Although her first medium was oil paint, she soon learned watercolor and has been painting with that medium for the past 40 years. In 1979 Prey earned a B.A. in Art History with Honors from Williams College followed by a Master’s degree from Harvard University in 1986. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that allowed her to continue her studies and work as a professional artist in Europe and Asia. Presently, Prey is adjunct faculty at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

Among her numerous honors and accomplishments, Prey serves on the National Council on the Arts, which is the advisory board to the National Endowment of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited at the White House, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian Art Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and other notable venues. Not long ago the Heckscher Museum in New York awarded Prey their Celebrate Achievement Award for her contributions to American art and culture. Additionally, she was commissioned by NASA to paint four paintings for their collection.

Presently, Prey’s career as a professional artist is marked by another milestone in the form of a grant from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) to create the largest watercolor in the world (photo). This work, which took Prey two years to complete, is an interior portrait of MASS MoCA’s 120,000 square foot Building 6, measuring 8 feet tall by 15 feet wide. It is presently on display at the museum. Studies from this commission will be on exhibit at the Blue Water Gallery in Port Clyde from August 15th to September 20th. At the same location, Prey will hold a benefit reception on August 7th from 6-8pm for the Friends of Thai Daughters, which works to prevent child trafficking in the Golden Triangle.

“Thousands of people have come to my exhibits over the years,” says Prey, “and it has been a unique honor to be able to meet so many from the area—I appreciate their support over the years!”  Prey’s work may be viewed online at:

—Katharine A. Cartwright

PHOTO: Jack Criddle

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