Lamar Dodd exhibit in Maine impresses LaGrange visitors
LaGRANGE — Several LaGrange residents recently visited Monhegan Island in Maine to view a new exhibit of the works of renowned Georgia artist Lamar Dodd.
The opportunity to view the exhibition was unforgettable, said Ann Beason.
“To see Lamar Dodd’s paintings in the place that inspired them made me see them in a new light, as if for the first time,” she said. “It was wonderful to find such a responsive audience for his work on Monhegan.”
LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander agreed.
“Three of the works in the exhibit have been hanging in the President’s Home for the six years we’ve lived there,” he said. “It was fascinating to see them displayed on the island that inspired them.”
Raised in LaGrange, Dodd his first formal art classes at LaGrange College — then LaGrange Female Academy — at the age of 12. He went on to head the art department at the University of Georgia that now bears his name.
For more than 40 summers, Dodd traveled to remote Monhegan Island, 12 miles off the coast of Maine, to paint. Monhegan has been an artists’ colony since the mid-1850s, and a mecca for artists for decades.
From 1947 until the late 1990s, Dodd painted there. At the end of each summer, he packed up his work and went back to Georgia. For a long time, no one on the island knew anything about him or his art.
An exhibition of Dodd’s paintings is on display at the Monhegan Museum of Art and History through Sept. 30. A great deal of the artwork is on loan from the Lamar Dodd Art Center at LaGrange College.
John Lawrence, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Art and Design, said he met Dr. Robert Stahl, associate director of the Monhegan Museum, a few years ago.
“He actually lives in Atlanta, but he summers on Monhegan,” Lawrence said. “He said he was very interested in Dodd’s work and wanted to put together an exhibition.”
Although Dodd’s work is well known in the South, he was a mystery to artists and art lovers in the Northeast, especially on Monhegan Island, Dr. Stahl said.
“People knew his name, but that was about all,” he said. “Because he always took his paintings back to Georgia with him, there weren’t any on the island. In fact, there are none of his paintings in the state of Maine other than one in a museum, and it hasn’t been shown for years.”
This is the first one-man, retrospective exhibition in New England of Dodd’s work, he said.
“It’s never been done. I’m so pleased that this has broadened the exposure of his work to so many people who weren’t familiar with it. The reaction has been incredibly positive.”
Beason said the LaGrange visitors received a warm welcome from the islanders.
“The shopkeepers, gallery workers and food-service people always greeted us with, ‘Oh, are you from LaGrange?.’”
Dr. Stahl said he and the island’s residents were charmed by the guests from Georgia.
“They were a fabulous group,” he said. “Everyone was attentive, appreciative and very knowledgeable. We loved the connections we formed, and we hope they come back soon.”
Just to make sure that happens, Dr. Stahl called on an island tradition.
“When a visitor leaves, if an islander gives him or her a bouquet of flowers from their garden and the visitor tosses the bouquet into the harbor, that guarantees the visitor’s return,” he said.
“My wife and I took many flowers to the harbor on Sunday morning, and there were many flowers floating in the harbor that afternoon.”