All sorrows can be borne if you tell a story about them.

–  Isak Dinesen

Bibliography is an online exhibition I’ve been working on for months. It is now live.

More than once I doubted I could complete the project. I conceived and re-conceived it, rejecting each idea as poorly serving my drawings and their tale. I did not know how to bring the layers to life.

When we go through profound change, it feels large. How to tell that story?

(Stunned. Bewildered. Blasé. Shaken. Dizzy. Euphoric. Serene. Melancholic. Nostalgic. Altered. Shattered. Disaffected. Abnormal. Confused. Ordinary.)

For me, stumblingly.

I don’t think you would know that viewing, reading, and experiencing the exhibition.

In the thick of things, life can feel impossible. My daughter was ill and then she died, and somehow I had to go on: how do I even move my legs? I had a loving marriage for 30 years and then something was different: how can that even be? My life became increasingly unrecognizable as my own: who is that in the mirror?


And yet here I am, and only in hindsight is there any arc to this story.

It took so long to find it. To express it. To build Bibliography.

It’s a demanding show: it asks you to look, to read, to listen; to think, feel, and reflect. But I believe if you take time with it, it will give something back. There are layers.

For me, making Bibliography has delivered release and relief, for in confronting the grief, pain, and confusion haunting me in the wake of disasters, I find myself free of those hardships’ disabling grip: I can bear my sorrow, and joy is no longer elusive.

My story is finally shaped, and here I am: whole.


“Proof” by Tiana Clark by Peter Bruun; 15″ x 22″; gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper; 2021

I like the drawing, but it didn’t make the cut.

“Proof” by Tiana Clark is part of a series I made between 2019 and 2021 based on writings by others that – at the time I read them – resonated with my own story. Bibliographythe online exhibition based on this series, has just gone live. In the exhibition, each of 9 featured drawings presents a dance of colorful lines entwining words in ink and pencil – poetry and prose originally written by the likes of Rebecca SolnitLeslie Jamison, and Robert Hass.

This drawing is inspired by Tiana Clark’s Proof. When I first read the poem, it seemed penned just for me. I had been going through intense feelings of self-recrimination over the dissolution of my marriage, believing I was entirely at fault.

Then I read this line in Clark’s poem:

“Sometimes nobody is the monster.”

And this:

“I know you want a reason, a caution to avoid, but
life rarely tumbles out a cheat sheet.”

Proof helped move me beyond the eddy of self-denigration in which I was stuck. It offered a perspective more balanced and true – not so painfully one-sided. I was reminded that life is complicated, and that I need not see myself as a monster.

My drawing is a hallelujah to the gift Proof gave me.

But not every work makes it into an exhibition, just like not every sentence makes it into a book. Though this piece fits the theme and I like it, it doesn’t add anything new or better to the narrative arc of Bibliography.

Instead, I put it here, with a tale of its own, an offering to you – my salute to poetry’s power as inspiration and salve.

Kate Beck

Kate Beck, Will’s Strait II, 2022. Digital Archival pigment print, oil paint on Moab paper. 18” x 24”

Kate Beck is a quintessentially Maine painter, though it’s only with her recent Will’s Strait series that we see it clearly.

Being a “Maine painter” does not mean any one thing, but certain tropes come to mind. Artists such as Winslow HomerAndrew Wyeth, and Marsden Hartley long ago established a kind of blueprint for what to expect: rocky coasts, picturesque boats, rugged lobstermen. Such imagery (so emblematic of Maine) populates galleries throughout the state.

Of course, plenty of Maine artists make and exhibit art far different from this type. But while their work is made in Maine, its content is generally not seen as of Maine. For the Maine painter, there is little escape from proximity to pine trees and sailboats, wood-handled axes and fishing nets.

Such imagery is largely absent from Kate’s oeuvre; she does not consider herself to be a representational painter.

“I make abstract art,” she says.

And she does so beautifully and subtly. To be with her paintings is to be in the presence of wonder and nuance. As we look, what might initially appear to be a work randomly covered in brushstrokes reveals itself over time to be a composition with a deceptively lush range of marks and underlying architecture: there is structure to these works. This becomes clear as our eye moves across the surface, guided by well-placed shade and color from corner to corner, our gaze drawn into continuous visual meander. The more we look, the more we see, leading us to realize: this work is a marvel, full of discovery and surprise.

left: Kate Beck, Wilderness Plan, 2021, oil on linen, 56” x 51”; right: Kate Beck, Wilderness Plan II, 2021, oil on linen, 56” x 51”

“When it really starts to flow, then I feel like I’m there,” she says of her process.

Steeped in painterly concerns and critique, Kate’s practice puts her in the company of such artists as  Brice MardenHelen FrankenthalerGerhard Richter, and Jacqueline Humphries; they and others like them form a cosmopolitan art tribe for her.

Hers is an association more obviously with New York than Maine, an observation with which she is quick to concur.

“For years I’ve been seen as a New York artist,” she says.

Though born and living in Maine most of her life, New York is where Kate’s career took off. In 2008, her art work was included in a major painting survey exhibition at O.K.Harris Gallery in SoHo, a famed launching space for emerging artists. From that opportunity she secured gallery representation in the city, had her first solo show, and established a reputation among artists and collectors.

“I became known,” she recalls. “I made close and enduring friends with a great many artists, and became very involved working in this world we shared.”

For years, Kate exhibited in and traveled to New York and Europe, establishing a cultural community far from her home in Maine.

Things started changing for her in 2018. Her longtime New York gallery unexpectedly closed and her marriage of many years ended. Then Covid struck. Homebound in a rental on Maine’s coast, she was unable to travel or exhibit in New York or Europe; feeling cut off and vulnerable, Kate sought healing in her natural surroundings.

“I live at the end of a dirt road, right by the ocean – stone ledge and pine grove and open water. I would sit with my dogs and we’d look out on Will’s Strait, watching the waves and feeling a part of something larger than myself.”

She also took photographs that became the foundation for her Will’s Strait series.

left: Kate Beck, Will’s Strait I, 2022. Digital Archival pigment print, oil paint on Moab paper. 24” x 18”; right: Kate Beck, Will’s Strait III, 2022. Digital Archival pigment print, oil paint on Moab paper. 24” x 18”

With the photographs, it is clear we are in Maine: ocean, sky, and rock. On top of these black and white images, Kate smears and daubs oil paint across the silvery surface in a process similar to monoprinting. The color does not serve the images’ realism, but instead obscures the scenery beneath.

So what is it doing there?

Kate made this series during a hard period in her life, a stretch of time when she drew comfort from the land, specifically from this place in Maine. The photographs are salutes to Will’s Strait, and to them she adds specific colors: blues, greens, and whites; yellows, ochres, and olives. These are the colors of ocean, sky, and rock, intentionally placed by Kate to hover, swerve, and rise. The hues appear to float like pure extraction from within each scene, like the essence of the place.

The paint is literally of Maine, paying tribute to it.

And the same can be said of so much of her work… her dancing ochres and grays, her sweeping blues and greens, all drawn from coastal rock and pine wood – exultations of her native home.

The Will’s Strait series reveals Maine to be the wellspring of so many of her abstractions.

left and right: Kate Beck, Untitled, 2021, oil on linen, 10” x 10”

Kate’s art is complex. By turns conceptual and philosophical, tactile and eloquent, saturated with the artist’s intelligence and emotional life, it defies simplistic interpretation. And yet, on the question of place, Maine is at its core, as it has always been. Kate subtly puts a piece of that in every world-traveling painting she makes.

Kate may be recognized as a New York artist, but in her marrow, she is a Maine painter.

Quintessentially so.

Kate Beck is an American painter best known for exploring the space between realism and abstraction. A recent recipient of a grant from the Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, she regularly exhibits in New York and Europe and her art is in collections around the world.

October 2022

Cameo Conversation:
Kate Beck

Please join us Thursday, October 27, at 7:00 p.m. ET for Bruun Studios’ second Cameo Conversation, featuring Kate Beck, whose work Peter writes about in this issue of Out of Place. In the conversation, we invite your participation in everything ranging from questions and comments about Kate’s art, to the importance of ties to place in our lives. Register for this free event here.

Bibliography: Opening Conversation

On Wednesday, October 19, at 7:00 p.m. ET, Peter is joined by writer and creator of the Baldwin Prize Lionel Foster to introduce Bibliography and explore the question, “How does art help?” In this wide-ranging conversation, the co-hosts invite the audience to share their own examples of how creating or experiencing art and writing has offered sustenance and companionship. Register here.

Hannah Brancato Online

On Thursday, September 29, Peter sat down to talk with artist and activist Hannah Brancato, the subject of last month’s Cameo article in Out of Place. The first in an an ongoing series of Cameo Conversations, their discussion on Hannah’s art and its influences can now be viewed online here.

A Message of Gratitude

Nearly the entire content of this issue of Out of Place is devoted to our online exhibition, Bibliography. We cannot overstate the extent to which completing it was a team effort. Thus, we wish to acknowledge those who played critical roles in its realization: Thanks to Megan McCarthy for her brilliant design work; Daniel AnastasioIva Casian-Lakoš, and Ford Fourqurean for their musical collaboration; Clifford Thompson and Lionel Foster for program participation; Kristin Seeberger and Mark C. Taylor for their written contributions; David Clough for his exquisite art photography. Special thanks to the Nancy Patz Fund for sponsorship, and to Leigh Perkins for editorial expertise informing every aspect of the project.