Team Player

Working with skilled collaborators, renowned artist Charlie Hewitt finds fresh inspiration — and his political voice — in Portland.

Photographs by Cara Dolan

“This has been my space since I moved back to Maine from New York 10 years ago. The paintings are finished, so I’m going to get them out of the way and sweep the floor — I’m from Lewiston and my dad had a gas station. When you finish a job, you clean up. I’ll work another week on a sculpture and then spend six months making woodcut prints. I’ve also got neon signs going on. I’m a contractor too, and I organize my art the way I do my construction site, in steps. What I like about being an artist in Maine, versus New York, is the collaborative experience. I work with Wolfe Editions next door on my woodcuts and they did the typeface for the Hopeful sign [recently installed atop Portland gallery Speedwell Projects] that Neokraft Signs constructed. Ball and Chain Forge fabricates my sculptures. The older I get, the less inclined I am toward what Rauschenberg called ‘the egotistical isolation of the studio.’ Hopeful was one of the better things I’ve done because of the collaborative and political aspects. I needed an emotional ballast. I come from the days of marching on D.C. and getting gassed and enjoying the hell out of all that. Now I’m an old man watching my country going down the same path and I want to do something. I don’t think there’s an artist who isn’t conflicted right now.”

ABOVE Sharpie doodles on his desk calendar are the source of many ideas. “These paintings are like landscapes in a lot of ways,” he says. “They’re windows out to the world.”

Charlie Hewitt’s work can be seen in Left of the Turnpike at Cove Street Arts, Aug. 1–Oct. 4. 71 Cove St., Portland. 207-808-8911.