Damariscotta Artist Finds Stories in Discarded Objects

With his detailed sketches and paintings, artist John Whalley gives life to things that otherwise would be considered used up and discarded.

Whalley, who lives in Damariscotta Mills, is known for the extraordinary detail he gives to objects like old books, fountain pen tips, fishing hooks, old bottles, pencils and even sea shells. His art, done in graphite, oil, watercolor and egg tempera, tells a story about each of the objects – how it was made and how it was used before ending up in Whalley’s studio.

But Whalley’s art tells only part of the story of his own love of discarded things. For many years he has worked with homeless “street children” in places around the world, from Florida to Brazil. He has volunteered at the New Horizons Youth Ranch in central Brazil, which helps boys who are neglected, abused, live in extreme poverty or are abandoned. Life at the ranch includes classroom learning and vocational training. In addition to his volunteer work, Whalley has contributed to the ranch with sale of his artwork and books.

The artist was born in Brooklyn in 1954, but grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York State. He and his family lived for a time in rural, northern Pennsylvania, too. He loved the country and the objects that he collected on his forays to antique sales and shops. He studied illustration, drawing and painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. For a time he contributed art to a variety of New England publications. While living in Pennsylvania, he developed a therapeutic art program for abused and abandoned children at an orphanage on a 300-acre farm. His time there inspired much of his early work.

Over the years, Whalley's work was exhibited widely in the museums of the Rhode Island School of Design, Purdue University, The University of Wisconsin at Eu Claire, University of Florida, and the University of Georgia at Athens. Exhibitions of his work have also included the Sheldon Swope Museum of Art, Dedland Museum of Art, The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, South Bend Regional Museum of Art, the Tampa Museum of Art, and The Coral Springs Museum of Art. Some of Whalley's new work will be featured July 3 to Aug. 2 in an exhibition called "Book of Days" at the Greenhut Galleries in Portland.  His work also is featured in two books, “John Whalley – American Realist,” and “In New Light.” If you wish to visit his studio, email the artist at john (at) johnwhalley.com.

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