Maryanne Holt Starbird, a Mount Desert Island artist whose vivid close-ups of nature have won numerous acclaim, has given the University of Maine a painting entitled “Through the Looking Glass” that offers an enchanting glimpse into a pool formed by droplets from a rushing waterfall.
Hanging in Lord Hall’s Starbird Student Lounge, the watercolor provides the crowning touch to the space named in recognition of a previous contribution made last year by Maryanne and her husband, Rick, both UMaine alumni. Their gift counted towards the University’s Campaign Maine and helps bring the University closer to its $150 million goal.
Maryanne’s latest gift is testimony to the connection she feels with the University.
“I want students and faculty to know that I love them,” she says.
Recalling that she purposely matched the painting’s rich autumn hues to the furniture, the artist can’t help but smile.
“I always told my art classes that I would never paint a couch painting – so what did I do? I proceeded to do a painting in the same color as the couch!” she says wryly.
Still, “I’m happy with it,” she adds.
The art department is, too.
“Everyone loved it — they thought it was a very nice addition. It’s an important link between faculty, students and the supporters of our department,” says Susan Groce, chair of the art department, noting that “Through the Looking Glass” was among the first pieces to adorn the walls of the newly renovated building.
Maryanne, a member of the UMaine Class of 1958, and her husband, Rick, a 1956 UMaine graduate, presented the painting to the department in February during an event attended by a number of appreciative faculty, students and staff. The artist also provided three photographs of the painting in various stages of completion.
“Everyone was curious about how it was made, so this helps unravel the puzzle,” says Susan. “It made it very relevant for the art students.”
Maryanne encountered her subject, the pool, by chance one recent fall day after making her way down a steep, grassy path off the road leading to Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.
“I was very surprised and excited,” says the Corinna native, who often had stopped to gaze at the waterfall on the opposite side of the road.
The pool may not have been as visually dramatic, she says, but it was captivating all the same with its layers of faintly seen rocks, half-submerged leaves and rising bubbles.
“I thought, ‘this is even more beautiful,”‘ says Maryanne who proceeded to take a series of photographs on which she subsequently based the painting.
A signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Maryanne works out of a studio on Strawberry Hill in Bar Harbor and has exhibited at many places on the Maine coast, including Cygnet Gallery, Acadia Shop and Jesup Memorial Public Library, all in Bar Harbor; The Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park; and Union River Gallery in Ellsworth. Her artwork also has been featured at galleries in Houston, Texas, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Rick, who frames all of his wife’s paintings, says it’s his way of showing support for his talented wife.
“I’m very proud of her,” he says.
Besides their gift to Lord Hall, the couple have remembered UMaine in other ways over the years, including providing funds for educational projects and the Honors College. Last year they hosted an event at their home as part of Rick’s 50th class reunion.
Meanwhile, the pool has become one of Maryanne’s favorite places on Mount Desert Island.
“It’s almost like I’m drawn to it,” she says. “I want to jump in.”
Image Description: Rick and Maryanne Holt Starbird with painting in Lord Hall