Bo Bartlett’s series of recent gouaches captures the passing moments of a hazy summer day and transforms them into glistening narratives of wonder. The works depict Bartlett’s tranquil summers spent with his wife, artist Betsy Eby, on Wheaton Island off of the coast of Maine, where the only signs of human life in the natural landscape are the renovated fisherman’s cottages, which serve as separate studios for the artists.
Though many of the gouaches lack human subjects, each one alludes to an epic narrative similar to those found in his large-scale oil paintings. Bartlett allows for these works to be more loosely rendered: his gestural brushstrokes sweep across certain passages while others remain bare, the bright white of the watercolor paper suggesting the siding of a house or the space around an interior windowpane. These distinct choices define each image, revealing the landscape as seen through Bartlett’s eyes, each brushstroke conveying the precise emotions set within that moment.
Bartlett’s belief that “art is a living thing” is clearly demonstrated in these new works. Each gouache serves as a chapter in the narrative of Bartlett’s experience, inviting the viewer to indulge in the peaceful meditation of the artist’s daily practice. As Chris Crosman notes, “In some sense, all of Bartlett’s gouaches are short, sweet songs sung to himself…Warm-ups for the soul.”