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Eric Hopkins: Waypoints


'Waypoints' is a term that refers to physical markers like islands, ledges, buoys and lighthouses that mariners use as aids to navigation. For artist Eric Hopkins the term also describes pivotal instances -- those points of arrival and departure that have defined his career as an artist. Hopkins carefully records his converging artistic journey with "Eric Hopkins: Waypoints," opening at the Farnsworth Art Museum on Sunday, May 4, and continuing through July 27, 2003, in James' and the Crosman Galleries.

"Eric Hopkins: Waypoints" is a mid-career retrospective exhibition that looks at a selection of more than 65 works, including examples of Hopkins' earliest paintings and sculpture from the '70s and '80s through paintings completed as recently as March, 2003. While it is evident that his work changes and evolves over time, it is also true that certain influences and responses remain constant and serve to provide a common thread that weave the often disparate parts into a whole cloth. Bold, vigorous outline that pulsates with an almost electric energy combines with color that can, in the same painting, be both vivid and insistent, limpid and subtle.

Whatever his subject or medium, Eric Hopkins' art of experience and response speaks eloquently of his enthusiasm and passion for life. Seashells, fish, pebbles, boulders, trees, islands, beaches, ocean, sky and earth are transformed by his potent imagination into powerful and evocative images.

Hopkins was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1951. He spent his childhood on North Haven, an island off of the Maine coast, where his paternal ancestors had lived since pre-revolutionary times. Growing up on the island as part of a small tight-knit community and finding himself surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty of the area were crucial to the formation of his creative sensibilities. There is an energy and joyfulness about his paintings and sculpture that sets them apart from other representations of the coastal environs of Maine.

Hopkins also has special ties to Rockland, Maine, and to the Farnsworth Art Museum located there. His first encounters with art were at the Farnsworth, where he recalls seeing wonderful paintings and sculpture, scrimshaw, model sailing ships and dioramas. As a child in Rockland, he also saw sculpture by well-known artist Louise Nevelson in the lobby of the Thorndike Hotel, which was owned by Nevelson's brother, Nathan Berliawsky. Hopkins remembers them as "strange black boxes filled with recognizable things -- pieces of lobster traps, broken chair parts, boat scraps and other forms of things known and unknown, recognizable but elevated into something called art. My brothers and I laughed at it all yet knew there was something to it. Just like we knew common things like the weathered shingles on an old barn on a gray winter day painted by Andrew Wyeth were also Art."

Hopkins left North Haven in 1969 to pursue an education in art. He studied at the University of Southern Maine, Gorham, the Haystack School of Crafts at Deer Isle, the Montserrat School of Visual Arts in Beverly, Massachusetts, Marlboro College in Vermont, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. He studied painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic design and glass art, emerging, in 1976 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from RISD. His encounters with such artists as Juris Ubans, Erwin Eisch, Paul Scott, Dale Chihuly and Italo Scanga informed and influenced both his sculpture and his painting.

After achieving considerable success as a glass sculptor in New York and around the country, Hopkins moved back to North Haven in 1981 in order to re-evaluate his life and his goals as an artist. He has lived there ever since, establishing a studio and a gallery.

In 1983 Hopkins began to take flying lessons in order to make his concept of space more real. Over the course of two decades, the result of flying has been a series of paintings (he calls them "aerials") that translate an obsession with movement through time and space  in both the literal and metaphorical sense  into two and three dimensional images in a variety of media.

The exhibition was organized by Helen Ashton Fisher, Curator of Exhibitions, and will be on view May 4-July 27 in the Morehouse Wing. A full-color catalogue with an essay by Ms. Fisher and an introduction by Director Christopher Crosman and published by the Farnsworth Art Museum accompanies the exhibition.

There will be a private reception and preview of "Eric Hopkins: Waypoints" for Circle and Founder Members on Saturday, May 3, 5:30-7 p.m. On Sunday, May 4, there will be a special Members preview of the exhibition from noon-1 p.m., followed by an Eric Hopkins Open House from 1-4 p.m., with activities and refreshments for everyone, including children. The Open House is free to the community, and artist Eric Hopkins will be present from 2-4 p.m. to sign his book. Additionally, there will be a gallery talk on "Eric Hopkins: Waypoints" on Wednesday, July 9 at 5 p.m. by a museum curator. On Sunday, July 20, 1-3 p.m., Eric Hopkins has assembled panelists David Conover, Richard Podolski, and Penobscot Elder Arnie Neptune to recognize and discuss A Century of Flight. The panel discussion will be held in the Farnsworth auditorium. Price is $5 for members, $8 for non-members, and reservations are necessary.

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