Objects of Our Affection: Distant Blue Ridge

Wolf Kahn (1927-2020); Distant Blue Ridge, 1997
Oil on canvas, #2015.8

In this series, OMAA staffvolunteers and friends discuss their favorite art and sculpture from our collections.

Selected by Maine artist and teacher Rachael O’Shaughnessy

You’ve been a loyal patron of OMAA for years. What drew you to the museum? 

I have so many wonderful memories of the museum from my childhood. My older brother, who used to work in Ogunquit, introduced OMAA to me when I was young. I’d save up my money to visit the museum on weekends.  

Years later, my museum colleague, fiancé and now husband (artist John David O’Shaughnessy) and I fell in love while painting over the jetty behind the museum. I now paint Narrow Cove with a deeper connectionThe museum is a very sacred place to me! I feel a real connection to it, more so than any other museum. The water view out back is wonderful and the gardens—don’t even get me started! They’re so stunning and poetic. 

What’s your favorite work in OMAA’s collections? 

As an artist, it’s so difficult to pick just one! I love Rockwell Kent’s Alaskan Sunrise. It’s so serene and tranquil. And Marsden Hartley’s Lobster Pots and Buoy is so quintessentially Maine. I have generations of family who worked in and around boats so that work is familial to me. 

If I had to pick one sentimental but powerful work, it’s Distant Blue Ridge by Wolf Kahn. He was my teacher at the Vermont Studio Center and, sadly, recently passed away. His work astounds me. The purple brambles flourishing in this work create a rich, evocative, color-filled experience. It’s like arriving and taking a journey at the same time. Wolf was a remarkable colorist. 

Wolf was in my life for many years. He was instrumental in shaking the fear off me when I painted. I don’t know if I’d be painting the same way, or have painting be the center of my life, if I hadn’t had Wolf’s challenge and embrace. He helped me understand the decorum of color. He always said you had to handle color like a gentleman—it had to earn its place. 

I’m so glad Wolf’s work, and that of his late wife, Emily Mason, is being recognized. He was a wonderful, thoughtful, nurturing part of my life. 


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