Recalling childhood summers in Northport, Ferry’s bold paintings mix words and images.
Condensing his subjects to crisp geometric or textured abstract forms, Joshua Ferry creates colorful paintings with a modern simplicity reminiscent of artists such as Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly. Take for example, his painting series based on the cross shape, which focuses on hard edges and strong contrasting colors. He admits that he thinks about painting “all the time,” noticing “visual relationships in the world and being acutely aware of color and light.” Originally from Milford, New Hampshire, Ferry and his family spent summers in Northport in the early seventies. As an adult, Ferry lived in New Jersey for 13 years before settling in South Portland with his wife Karen in 2012. “Since moving back to Maine I’ve been slowly absorbing the nuances of my surroundings,” Ferry says. While living in New Jersey, he created paintings by sanding and burnishing layers of acrylic paint. But the move to Maine facilitated a move to a different medium. Ferry now uses oil paints, laying down color with palette knives and trowels. Oil’s long drying time suits his process: he develops paintings over months or a year, building up dense layers in an “accumulation of moments,” he says. Most recently, nostalgia for his childhood summers has found its way into his art. His brother shared a collection of notes that he had kept during a family summer vacation in 1979. “I pounced on the opportunity to use his words in my paintings,” says Ferry. These recent paintings recapture the memories that helped establish his first affection for Maine. The colors are softer than those used in some of his other works, heightening the sense that the paintings are based on remembrances of hazy summer days. Pale gray borders act as a “frame” and house his brother’s brief but evocative descriptions. “Instead of finding inspiration from direct observation, I find my sources on the periphery; something I saw or noticed but didn’t think about will seep into my work weeks or months later,” he says, “Inspiration is an elusive thing and most painting decisions I make are intuitive. When I’m working I sometimes don’t realize the source of a decision until after I make it.”