"Craning My Neck to See the Ocean Now," by Tim Greenway, at Cove Street Arts in Portland. (Courtesy Cove Street Arts)
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Photographer Tim Greenway’s work is as sharp and hi-tech as painter Tim Wilson’s is vague and elemental.

Greenway’s finesse with photo technology and Wilson’s eloquent handling of paint make for a terrific pair of shows at Cove Street Arts in Portland.

“Tim Greenway: Refined Resurgence” (through Dec. 11) is part of the Cove Street photography series curated by Bruce Brown (who, by the way, is included in this month’s Down East magazine “70 Over 70” feature). Brown has included Greenway in several Cove Street Arts shows because he responds to the artist’s “sense of composition and color.”

"Little House on the Stairway," by Tim Greenway
“Little House on the Stairway,” part of photographer Tim Greenway’s series examining oil tanks and their surroundings in South Portland. (Courtesy Cove Street Arts)

“Refined Resurgence” features works from two Greenway series: photographs of new buildings under construction in Portland and photographs of the Sprague Energy oil tanks in South Portland as painted by Venezuelan artist Jaime Gili.

Greenway’s dye-sublimation images on aluminum are far more beautiful than the colorful oil tanks with their coats of corporate abstraction. The dye-sublimation process, Greenway explains, uses heat and inkjet technology to transfer images from paper onto sheets of aluminum such that the images are actually beneath the metal surface.

Greenway, a Minnesota native who teaches digital imaging at the University of New England and takes most of the photographs for Mainebiz, has an eye for juxtaposition, seeing things like a religious statue next to the futurist oil tanks and things as subtle as drapes in a nearby window that match the industrial green of the oil tanks in the background. 

All the construction in downtown Portland also provides Greenway with ample architectural abstractions – stacks of pipes and grids of structural steel, always with high-key color and often with a worker or two caught within the chromatic matrix.

Wilson’s “Maine Coast Sojourn” (through Nov. 13) features some 50 of the paintings Wilson did as artist-in-residence at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, painting the trust’s preserves to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

"Monroe Island, Overcast," by Tim Wilson
“Monroe Island, Overcast,” by Tim Wilson. (Courtesy Cove Street Arts)

Wilson, a Maine native and Rhode Island School of Design grad currently in a residency program in England, is a master of the murky and the mysterious, reducing coastal landscapes to muddy, oily smears that capture the essence of place with a strangely haunting dimension.

When I visited Wilson a couple of years ago while he was on Deer Isle in search of new aesthetic terrain, he explained that he looks for “whispering places,” landscapes where the physical world seems closest to the spiritual realm. In “Maine Coast Sojourn” he finds these thin places on Saddleback and Whaleboat islands, on the Cutler cliffs, in the Monroe Bog, and on the Schoodic rocks among other places.

In reducing Maine to a few raw visual elements, Wilson avoids the picturesque and the pretty in favor of the stark, inhospitable reality that is the place we live.

“I find it boring to be outside on a pretty day,” Wilson explains in his artist’s statement. “Nothing’s happening. It’s just blue skies and there’s no intrigue for me. So I really enjoy feeling the dense fog, or getting rained on, or having snow fall on me. It helps me develop the work in a richer way.”

The slick, colorful compositions of Greenway and the drab visual tone poems of Wilson combine to create a satisfying experience of artists engaged with the Maine experience. I hadn’t planned to write about them both when I went to see their Cove Street Arts shows, but I went back the next day and took notes because I felt compelled to do so.

These are compelling exhibitions.

Edgar Allen Beem has written about art in Maine since 1978. He also writes the weekly Universal Notebook opinion column.

"Boot Head Solace on OC," by Tim Wilson
“Boot Head Solace on OC,” by Tim Wilson. (Courtesy Cove Street Arts)

“Tim Greenway: Refined Resurgence” and Tim Wilson’s “Maine Coast Sojourn,” at Cove Street Arts, 71 Cove St., Portland. FMI: 207-808-8911 or covestreetarts.com.