MY CAREER in the visual arts began in my early 20s, taking photographs, designing tabloid and broadsheet pages, and working in the camera and composing rooms for a small chain of newspapers in central Massachusetts.
In my 30s, I added video production to my experience, culminating in Shack Time, a documentary about the artist shacks in the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Aired in Boston on public television affiliate WGBH, Shack Time features readings by Annie Dillard and Cynthia Huntington, a rare photograph of Jack Kerouac typing in the dunes, a stunning portrait by Walker Evans, and interviews with several late shack owners.
I combined my interest in art and writing in the bimonthly magazine New England Watershed: A Journal of Arts, Culture, and Ideas, which I edited and published from 2005 to 2007. Watershed was named Best New Publication of 2006 by Utne Reader. I have since authored five books, mostly on issues related to landscape.
I grew up around art. My parents, John and Sally Powell, were representational painters, mostly of New England landscapes, flora and fauna. I always drew, and over the years studied from time to time, ranging from a week-long workshop on abstract painting with Doug Trump to a weekly figure drawing class over several winters.
But my passion for painting never truly erupted until the demise of Watershed. I was living alone, and had more time to paint. My athletic career was waning. I took courses on oil painting and printmaking with Geri Brunelle at Elms College. I painted and drew in the dune shacks; week-long intensives in colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic. I began painting every day, and I have devoted myself to my craft ever since.
MY WORK is heavily influenced by the landscapes of rural New England, especially central Massachusetts, where I was raised, and western Massachusetts, where I have resided for nearly 40 years. I have lived near the Connecticut River for most of my adult life, and water and the life it attracts are frequent themes in my paintings.
I would be remiss in not mentioning two other influences: athletics and apples. My years as a competitive runner and college coach taught me valuable lessons that also apply to painting. Many of the physical demands of painting are common to the athlete, especially hand-eye coordination, endurance, and patience. Both athlete and artist cultivate fluidity and grace. Running on a dirt path, a track, or softball field were powerful outlets for expression for me. I bring a similar physicality and energy to my painting.
My great-grandfather and both sets of grandparents owned apple orchards, the latter two in Brookfield, Massachusetts, where I grew up. I have written about and photographed apples and orchards for more than 20 years, and produced more than 20 educational videos for the New England Apple Association. This amalgam of agriculture and art synthesizes such diverse values as the visual beauty of apples, the power and vulnerability of landscape, the primacy of the senses, and the meaning of work.
Selected solo exhibitions
- Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton, Mass., 2019
- Anchor House of Artists, Northampton, Mass., 2018
- Old Mill Inn, Hatfield, Mass., 2018
- Laurel Park Arts, Northampton, Mass., 2017
- Westhampton Public Library, Westhampton, Mass., 2017
- Hope & Olive, Greenfield, Mass., 2017
- Elusie Gallery, Easthampton, Mass., 2015
- Goodwin Memorial Library, Hadley, Mass., 2015
Selected group exhibitions
- Paradise City Arts Festival, Northampton, Mass., 2019
- Elusie Gallery, Easthampton, Mass., 2018
- Provincetown Fine Arts Center, Provincetown, Mass., 2017
- Jamestown Arts Center, Jamestown, R.I., 2017
- Elusie Gallery, Easthampton, Mass., 2017
- Truro Public Library, Truro, Mass., 2014
Selected residencies and awards
- Jamestown Arts Center, with Theresa Girard, 2017
- Outer Cape Artist Residency Consortium, 2013
- Utne Reader Independent Press Awards, Best New Publication of 2006, New England Watershed
- New England Film and Video Festival, 2001, Shack Time
Publications and videos
- Feeling the Heat: Temperature and Time Sensitive, author, 2016
- Living Without Lawn: Rethinking the Front Yard, author, 2016
- My Interview with James Baldwin, 2016
- Apples of New England, author, 2014
- America’s Apple, author, 2012
- New England Watershed Magazine, A Journal of Arts, Culture, and Ideas, editor and publisher, 2006-2007
- Shack Time, producer and director, 2001