PORTLAND – An explosion of color greets visitors when they walk into Portland Museum of Art galleries showcasing works by Maine artist Lynne Drexler.

A painter of both abstract and representational works, Drexler is known for her use of distinctively vibrant colors and bold geometric shapes.

“Lynne Drexler – Painter” (1928-1999) – on view on the PMA’s second floor through March 1 – features 50 paintings, drawings, photographs and textiles.

The exhibit was organized by the Monhegan Historical and Cultural Museum Association, which is most appropriate considering Drexler’s ties to Monhegan Island.

She received her artistic training at the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, studying with two of its leading practitioners: Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell. “From Hofmann she absorbed a fundamental sense for the role of color and from Motherwell an understanding of the importance of draftsmanship and composition,” according to the PMA.

Having spent summers on Monhegan Island for many years, Drexler and her husband, artist John Hultberg, moved there in the early 1980s. She died in 1999 on the island that had become her home and whose people she had grown to love.

Drexler found that the island gave her privacy and the space she needed to be creative. In the island people she found kindred spirits, an independent lifestyle, shared values and companionship. She enjoyed sharing the common humanity in their needs and in everyday life experiences – their gossip, joys, sorrows and frustrations.

“When the couple lived in New York, she regularly attended concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, where she would make colored crayon sketches from her seat in the audience,” according to the PMA.

“Although she began her career as an abstract painter, after settling on Monhegan in 1983, her subjects became more linked to the island landscape through her black-and-white snapshots and her sketches. A new documentary film, accompanying the exhibition, explores in vivid detail her early abstract paintings and her deepening relationship with the island and its year-round residents.”

Drexler’s large, colorful works on display at the PMA convey joy, vitality in life and an undefeated spirit.

Color builds up in her work in neat little patches of abstract shapes, which look like small jewels or colored geometric particles. This is evident in two of her best works, “Misting,” and “Fog in the Window,” which stand out for their unique style, color and composition.

Other works, like “Opera,” “Receding Summer” and “Felled Tree,” exude color and emotion. However, it is her work titled “Orientalia,” which graces the cover of the exhibit’s catalog, that best demonstrates her unique style – a style between pointillism and Japanese art, with its flat geometric shapes.

Viewing “Flowered Meadow,” an oil on canvas created in 1963 in green, orange, coral, yellow and brown colors, one can see suggestions of floral flat figures mixed with geometric shapes that have a distinctly oriental quality.

In the work “Incandescent Meadow,” created in 1980, one can see Drexler’s style becoming more abstract.

Drexler took many photographs from which to study. She enlarged shapes and painted abstractions from small parts of photos, creating huge paintings by magnifying shapes and intensifying color.

Small, floral still lifes and a series of her dolls and folk masks made in later life are also part of the exhibit and show Drexler’s broad range of creativity.

“Lynne Drexler – Painter” is a joy to see. You won’t be disappointed. I plan to see it again and again.

The museum at Seven Congress Square is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, $4 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children under 6. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Pat Davidson Reef has a master’s degree in education and has taught art history at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland. She has written two children’s books, “Dahlov Ipcar, Artist,” and “Bernard Langlais, Sculptor.” She teaches children’s literature for teacher recertification for the American Institute for Creative Education.


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