Aroostook County artist creates whimsical, colorful paintings in her rural Maine studio

8 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — An Aroostook County artist, surrounded by several completed works, began a new painting Saturday while standing in the window of The County Co-op and Farm Store, a popular restaurant, shop and art gallery. 

Gina Parent started painting just after 9 a.m., and by mid-morning, despite people stopping to chat about her work, the canvas was filled with a whimsical garden of perennials. A much-loved local artist, Parent has painted several outdoor murals in Houlton, and she has an entire collection, including cards and prints, exhibited on the second floor of the store.

The Hodgdon native has been painting ever since her mother took her to a local oil painting class as a young girl, and she created mountains with a palette knife, she said. Several years ago, after a career as a hairdresser and antique shop owner, she decided to do what she loves most and started painting full time.

Parent spends most of her time painting at her home studio in Hodgdon. She said she loves the beauty and peace of being in that space, but there are disadvantages of being an artist in a rural area without ready access to galleries and art events, admitting she would like to sell more. 

Artist Gina Parent’s new work evolved at a Meet the Artist event at The County Co-op and Farm Store in Houlton. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Saturday’s Meet the Artist event was a way to branch out and reach more people, she said.

Her work is continually evolving, but even if she veers away for a few pieces, she tends to return to brightly colored abstract flowers, reminiscent of New York artist Roberto Juarez’ murals. She describes her style as whimsical abstract with deeper meaning, and said her yard is filled with a wild collection of perennials often appearing in her pieces.

Before each new work, Parent said she isn’t sure what will appear. She asks Alexa for a song, and as she feels the vibe, she just starts painting and the work appears, she said. 

Artist Gina Parent paints a new work at a Meet the Artis event at The County Co-op and Farm Store in Houlton. (Gina Parent)

“Sometimes after I complete a painting I will cry,” she said. “It looks happy and cheerful, but there is a lot going on, and what I feel goes right into my art, and I’m always thinking, ‘How will this affect someone when they see it?’”

Artist Gina Parent’s work, The Bird Whisperer. (Gina Parent)

Parent said the whimsical nature of her works is a result of her old-fashioned farm life and happy childhood. Her father was a potato farmer, and Parent and her friends would ride bikes and pick potatoes as children.

She sells most of her work locally, she said. While she would like to sell more and get in larger galleries, she said she’s happy with the way things are going.

“This is a perfect life,” she said.