ROCKLAND—At the intersection of Water Street and Main Street, there is a quiet gallery on the second floor of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center that is worth checking out during a lunch break or after a stressful day. Glass-enclosed and full of natural light with views of the ocean, this under-the-radar gallery brings nature and wildlife inside with each exhibit, offering a place to recharge while winter still lingers.
Two artists share the gallery space throughout March: Wildlife photographer Carla Skinder of St. George and wooden relief sculptor Tom Hardy of Lincolnville.
A retired nurse, Skinder has been shooting photographs of wildlife all over the world since the late 1970s. Every other year, she takes a major trip to a country to immerse herself into the wild. From her recent trip to Namibia, she has winnowed down some of her favorite photos from tens of thousands of pictures taken. The exhibit currently hanging is a compilation of work dating back to the ‘70s.
“A lot of these shots were taken in Vietnam, China, Namibia, and Zambia, the Antarctic and the Faulkland Islands,” she said. “And, some right here in New England. The photographs of the loons were taken in Grafton, New Hampshire.”
Skinder often gets right up close to shoot her subjects while in a kayak. “I’ll be doing a slide talk on March 21 here at the gallery on what it’s like to photograph from a kayak,” she said. “It can be pretty intense because I’m trying to keep very still and of course, the water is never still. I have to set down my paddle and pick up my camera, which has a 600 lens, so it’s a big camera. And of course, the challenge is not to get the camera wet. It’ll be a fun show with shots both from ponds and the ocean.”
Among some stunning shots of wildlife, Skinder also displays some travel ephemera called “First Day Covers.” A first day cover is a postage stamp on a cover, postcard or stamped envelope the first day that the stamp goes into circulation within a country. “These are a cheap way of bringing a souvenir back from every country I visit,” she explained.
This coming year Skinder's next adventure will be a trip to the High Arctic in the fall of 2019, which is being offered through the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands NWR.
Tom Hardy is the relief sculptor whose work graces the other half of the gallery. “My background is in sculpting in the round, which is three-dimensional sculpting with clay,” he said. Through my friend, I learned how to do relief sculpture, where I use sandblasting at high velocity on cedar boards with the sand removing the low density fiber from wood.”
This “wooden fingerprint,” unique to each piece of wood, presents a random beauty. Hardy’s work features wildlife as his subject matter, whether it is flocks of gulls, seahorses, the coasts or bonsai trees. “My work almost always involves nature as it inspires me personally,” he said.
The gallery is open during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except holidays. This July and August, the gallery and visitor center also will be open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the help of Friends’ volunteers.
To learn more about Tom Hardy’s work check out his Instagram profile at @tomlhardy or visit: tomlhardyart.com
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org