Ann Conrad Stewart

Mapping the Cliff Walk

My journey around the Cliff Walk began over 40 years ago when I first visited Prouts Neck. I was struck by the path’s majestic beauty, light and meditative sounds; and, most importantly, by its mercurial nature. It is a different experience each hour of the day and in every season of the year.  While the colors, weather and atmosphere are ever changing, there are seminal locations along the path, despite their familiarity, that take my breath away every time I reach them. 

Mapping the Cliff Walk is a project that I have imagined for ten years. Hiking the path most days while in Maine, I gather images, colors and locations. I draw, sketch and take pictures along the way. GPS on my phone and satellite technology accurately map locations where I have paused to look. Utilizing these digital tools, I see things in new ways back in my studio. Available maps of the Cliff Walk have made me realize that this path is not only part of our present experience, but it has also been a part of the region’s history and art history for many generations.

In March 2020, COVID-19 abruptly interrupted life as we knew it and, for a time, the Cliff Walk was closed. My project’s first body of work was nearing completion.  Unable to visit the locations that I was painting, the process of seeing, mapping and painting the path from digital photographs became all the more powerful. Sheltering at home in my studio underscored the nurturing, restorative power of outdoor spaces, and of the Cliff Walk in particular.

Our decision to delay the gallery show last summer had a silver lining: it handed me an additional studio year to fully realize Mapping the Cliff Walk. Yet, in October of 2020, the first part of the project was spontaneously hung to preview by appointment. Gallery visitors’ interest in the photos and map locations that were integral to my paintings inspired the creation of an INTERACTIVE COMPONENT of “Mapping the Cliff Walk” to accompany the second installment of oil paintings that opens on June 30, 2021.  The map will include the project’s full sixty-six oil paintings placed in their respective origin locations along the walk.

 I think that a journey through the fog allows us to see with clarity, through the rain allows us to feel the warmth of sunlight, through the silence allows us to hear the crashing waves and through the deep-wooded shadows allows us to see and feel with brightness and clarity. I invite you to come along with me on the Cliff Walk and share my journey, which I hope honors the generosity of the landowners who share this amazing path with us.