Nancy Freeman

August 25, 2009

Nancy Freeman's New Art Inspired by Friend

Kay Liss

Nancy Freeman, artist and founder of the former Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, has created a series of paintings inspired by her good friend Jody McCorkle, who passed away the first of this year. Often, it seems, creativity is sparked by remembering someone special and offering a tribute. Perhaps it's a way of keeping that someone alive. Last spring, Freeman organized a special exhibit of McCorkle s artwork at the Round Top farmhouse. The one-day show was filled with all manner of objects McCorkle would find to paint her nature-inspired designs upon - from watering cans to goose eggs. Some fine watercolor paintings were also on display. Her creative instinct seemed to take any form it could find. "She was a very good artist, but didn't really think of herself that way," Freeman said. "She created art for the sheer pleasure of it." Freeman first met McCorkle about 17 years ago, three years after she began Round Top Center for the Arts on the farm that was part of her estate. They became fast friends, working on the exhibition committee together, taking classes and visiting galleries and artists' studios. "Jody was so appreciative of other artists," Freeman said. "She and her husband, Henry, were avid collectors and he was on the acquisitions committee at the Portland Museum of Art." With the passing of her friend in January and the turmoil at Round Top - the art center's board of directors, which Freeman served on, left the premises by the spring after a difficult period of trying to resolve issues relating to the property deed - Freeman was feeling downcast. The art center she had devoted herself to was no longer at Round Top farm. The show for McCorkle and Freeman's subsequent inspiration to do a series of collages with her friend's spirit in mind is what lifted her out of her sad state. "Jody, above all, was a happy, joyful person," Freeman said. "She also represented the happy part of Round Top for me." Thus, working on art inspired by her friend was healing in multiple ways for Freeman. The Jody Series, as Freeman calls it, is currently part of an exhibit at Gallery 170 in Damariscotta Mills. McCorkle's spirit is obviously present in these playful works. Freeman's previous artwork has had a playful aspect to it - in its exploration of shapes and color in rhythmic patterns, reminding one of Paul Klee's art. Yet there was something more defined in their patterns than in these more free-form expressions. Most of her prior work is in printmaking with inks and watercolor, so this collage making - with wood, paper, fabric, bits of colored paper, acrylic paint and even pieces of wire screening - is also something of an adventure for the artist. "The collages are little studies about the pleasures of seeing and sharing visual memories as if they are like the flowers in Jody's garden," Freeman said. Freeman was a student of music before she was of art and the influence of the rhythms, repetitions and abstract quality of music is readily apparent. Other inspirations have come from oriental thought and gardening, she has said. The artists who most influenced her were Matisse, Klee and Ellsworth Kelly. Her art has become progressively more abstract over the years; 30 years ago, she was doing portraiture and other representational work. She has been showing with Gallery 170 for a number of years now. Yvette Torres, manager of the gallery, said the Jody Series seems to have motivated Freeman to go back to work in her studio, "making herself happier in the process, and in turn others who see her work and enjoy it. I'm delighted to be able to show her work" The exhibit, the last of the season, will be up only until Sun., Sept. 21 and can be seen Thurs. through Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The two other artists in this interesting show are Frances Kidder and Diane Langley. The gallery is located on Borland Hill Rd. just off of Rt. 215. Freeman has also recently returned to giving her popular art history and art classes at the Round Top Farm, now administered under the auspices of the Damariscotta River Association (DRA). The property reverted to the DRA when the art center, now called River Arts, left for it s new location in the old Coffin House on Main St. For more information about this class and other activities taking place at Round Top, call the DRA at 563-1363.