Maine Artist Tom Curry
May 5, 2023
Tom Curry has made a career out of painting a single island off the coast of Maine.
Text by Nathaniel Reade
Tom Curry’s studio in Brooklin, Maine, looks out at Eggemoggin Reach, where lies an uninhabited island that has fascinated him for twenty-six years. “Most artists go through a lot of transitions in their lives,” Curry says. “They don’t stay with one thing. But I admit that since 1997 I have been staying with one thing: that island.”
An accomplished landscape artist in both pastel and oil, Curry’s work hangs in museums, investment firms, galleries—even the offices of the Boston Red Sox. He loves and teaches plein air painting, but when he moved to Maine, the weather had other ideas. “My first year here I was in a snowmobile suit pretty much all winter,” Curry remembers. “I thought I could paint outside. I’d set up my easel in a snowbank. The paint turns to honey, your fingers get numb, it’s hard to pick things up. People would drive by thinking, ‘Who’s that idiot?’ ”
So he moved into his studio, and began to focus on twelve-acre Chatto Island. “My wife worked full time, I was feeling kind of alone, and the island was a perfect symbol of that,” he says. He also found it intriguingly terrifying. Curry liked sports in his youth, but after a few bad experiences, he realized swimming wasn’t one of them. All that ocean around the island reminded him of his fears. “In fifty-degree water you have a 50 percent chance of surviving for fifty minutes,” he says. “Isn’t that wild? I think painting the island helped me get over my fear. I thought, maybe I can fall in love with it.”
And his paintings of Chatto aren’t just about the island; they’re about the natural world around it, and his love of its constant change. “When I go to a beautiful place outside,” he says, “I get the sense that I’m not alone. It’s like a cathedral.”
As for his island obsession, he doesn’t think it’s going to fade anytime soon. “You’d think I’d get over that island by now,” Curry says. “My friends ask me, ‘Why don’t you take a barge out there and paint the other side?’ Or, ‘There are 4,619 islands in Maine. Can’t you pick another one?’
“But this is a talisman,” he says. “It’s like home turf.”
Editor’s Note: Tom Curry is represented by various galleries in Maine. His work is also on display at Thos. Moser in Freeport, Maine, thosmoser.com. For a complete list of galleries and to see more of his work, visit tomcurrymaineartist.com.