Tom Paiement’s studio on the third floor of an old building in downtown Bath includes a former Masonic meeting hall. He paints in one room and hangs his finished paintings in the hall, which offers wall space as plentiful as any gallery in Maine.
He’s enjoyed the enviable luxury of space for the 18 years that he’s been in the studio. It’s given him the opportunity to paint plentiful and large and to follow his creative and aesthetic whim wherever they take him. A sizable insight into Paiement’s dedication to his studio practice is on view this month at Greenhut Galleries in Portland, “Tom Paiement: 20 Years of Exploration.”
A reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, and Paiement will give a gallery talk at 5 p.m. Sept. 20. The show is on view through Sept. 29. It celebrates his 20-year association with Greenhut Galleries.
Paiement, 76, has been painting for about 50 years, 30 of them seriously. He grew up in Maine and went to college here, studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maine. After working in aerospace, he opted for the arts, moving to the Midwest to study with printmaker Mauricio Lasansky at the University of Iowa. He returned to Maine in 1985 and has been painting since, making him a dean of Maine’s contemporary art scene. He is among a select company of few full-time Maine artists who have worked as long and as seriously at their art.
Paiement works with a variety of materials, incorporating pieces of metal, steel and occasional LED lights into his work. For this show, he is packing a dense 88 pieces into the tight space at Greenhut in an attempt not to recreate but to suggest the spirit of the walls of his studio. It is a floor-to-ceiling installation, and it represents many elements of Paiement’s painting practice: fretboards, abstract geometrics, flowers and the people of Venice Beach, California, and Barbados, where Paiement and his wife have visited on recent winter trips.
“This is a big event in my life because I feel it is the first time the general public gets to see more fully who I have been as an artist,” he said. “I am a seeker. I am seduced by the forms of nature and the complexities of the human face.”
Collectively, the art shares commonalities of color, mass and shape. Paiement assembled the installation based on his instincts and how the pieces fit and felt together as a group. He calls the installation “private dialogues in a public setting.”
Assembling the works tightly among each other with nearly no space among the frames, Paiement encourages viewers to focus less on the individual pieces and more on their collective weight, which is significant – and a testament to the result of showing up every day to paint, year after year.
“One of the things this process has done is solidified my belief in what I’ve been doing over the 20 years I’ve been associated with Greenhut,” he said. “This was an endeavor. This is probably the most complicated and rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.”