“Top of the Morn’in to Ya!”
Today is the day for the “wearing of the green”, an Irish St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many “Mainahs.” As a former Baxter State Park artist in residence I love green and find that this hue presents itself in most of my work. Therefore, I decided to highlight this verdant color and how it relates to our state. First of all, green or as the Abnaki-Penobscot Native Americans said, “askaskwi,” (www.native-languages.org) is part of Maine’s nickname: The Pine Tree State. Yes, pine is a darker shade of green and is illustrated as the central item on our flag.
What’s in a Green Name?
We are familiar with Greenville, Maine home to the largest lake in Maine, Moosehead Lake. What about Greene, Maine the little town where my grandfather lived after he retired from being the State of Maine Egg Inspector in 1960? We cannot forget the towns of Greenbush just North of Old Town on the Penobscot River or the town of Greenfield just east of Greenbush. Then, there’s the tiny town of Greenwood named for the surveyor Alexander Greenwood, near Mt. Abram in western Maine. How about Green Lake 17 miles south of Bangor that contains a National Fish Hatchery part of the USFWS Atlantic Salmon restoration and recovery program for the Gulf of Maine? Also, Green Falls on Wassataquiok Stream up in T4 R10 WELS that features two main falls one that passes through a rock chute northwest of Mount Katahdin. All these locations are perfect spots for artists to paint forest green, pine green or chartreuse scenes!
Remember Chester Greenwood the inventor of the earmuffs, born in Farmington, Maine in 1858 and Bill Green the current television host of “Green Outdoors” on WCHS Portland, Maine.
Kelly Green Irish Roots
Irish immigrants first came to Maine in the 1700’s as researched by R. Stuart Wallace in his book, “They Change Their Sky:The Irish in Maine.” They came and settled in Brunswick, “Cork” present day Dresden, Bristol, Bremen, Boothbay, Thomaston, Warren and of course Belfast. The oldest standing Catholic Church in New England is St. Patrick’s in New Castle, Maine. Mr. Edward Kavanagh, a wealthy ship builder, was the first Irish Catholic congressman of New England and Maine’s first Irish Catholic Governor serving 1843-1844.
Irish, Art, and Artists
Not long after Governor Kavanagh was in office, an artist captured a tragedy on canvas in Maine. In 1854, John Hillary painted “The Burning of Old South Church by Anti-Catholic Know Nothing Gang in Bath.” Around the same time prolific American artist, Winslow Homer, who’s studio in Prout’s Neck, Maine, was painting sea green foamy swells and soft mint and myrtle pastoral fields. Camping and canoe trips on Maine Penobscot River were illustrated by Frederick Church and Marsden Hartley, (former member of the Bangor Art Society).
Because of the pigment utilized by these artists, possibly that is the reason the Old Town Canoe Company chose hunter green for their most popular canoe shade. Unfortunately, it will be a few months before we can get our own canoes into icy olive river rapids due to this week’s snowfall. Still, Old Town High School’s mascot howls in green and white, while Husson University’s Eagles soar in green and gold. To learn more about the facts of today’s popular tone and their artists, I recommend two books, “The Art of Katahdin” by David Little and “Green the History of a Color” by Michel Pastoureau. In Pastoureau’s edition, Jane Fonda’s jade eyes with their seductive glance will entice everyone to throw back the cover of this book, in a way similar to how Irishmen will throw back their green beer at Paddy Murphy’s! Enjoy, paint, and wear Green!