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 its majestic beauty, light and meditative sounds; and, most importantly, by its mercurial nature. It was and is a different walk each hour of the day and in every season of the year. Also, while the colors, weather, flora, fauna and atmosphere are ever changing, there are various seminal locations along the path, despite their familiarity, that literally take my breath away, each and every time I reach them.

Mapping the Cliff Walk has been a project that I have been imagining for nearly ten years. It has been in full production mode for the past two. Walking the path most days while in Maine, I gather images, colors, sounds and locations. I draw, sketch, record and take pictures along the way. GPS technology on my I-phone and Google Earth satellite technology accurately map locations where I have worked. Utilizing these digital tools and my computer, I see things in new ways back in my studio.  Poring over the available maps of the Cliff Walk has made me realize that this path is not only part of our present experience, it has been a part of the region’s history and art history for many generations.

In March 2020, COVID-19 abruptly transformed life as we knew it and, for obvious reasons, the Cliff Walk was closed. At that time, my project's body of work was nearing completion. I found myself unable to visit the locations that I was painting. And, the project of mapping the walk through memory and digital photographs became, for me, all the more powerful. Sheltering at home and in my studio underscored the nurturing, restorative power of outdoor spaces, and of the Cliff Walk in particular. Thankfully, I believe 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.

While disappointed by our choice to not share the project in the gallery this summer, I have been invigorated by the idea of an additional year to fully realize my long-planned Mapping the Cliff Walk. And, now that what has become the first part of the project is hung in the gallery and available to preview before the next part opens on June 30, 2021, I am delighted by the chance to begin taking you along on my journey.