Teaching Artist Profile: Abbie Read

Born in New Hampshire in 1955; raised on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover; the second of five children, Abbie Owen Read grew up with access to the natural world as well as superior facilities on campus where her father was an instructor in English and theater. The coast of Maine became an integral part of the family’s life when her parents began spending part of the summer on Matinicus Island, where they had purchased property in the 1950s.

Her art education began early, not only under the tutelage of her mother Sally, who was a visual artist, but also under Virginia Powell who taught at Abbot Academy and which Abbie attended. At Oberlin College in the 1970s Abbie majored in both studio art and art history, studying with Paul Arnold, Eleanor Johnson, Athena Tacha, John Pearson, and others, then went on to teach painting, printmaking, and drawing at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts where she stayed until she and her husband moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1989. In 1991 Abbie received her MFA from the School of Art at the University of Michigan where she was a student in the short-lived Mixed Media Program under Carol Ann Carter. Following graduate school she attended Michigan State University where she studied landscape design then started ARTgarden, a landscape gardening business.

She and her husband Bart finally moved permanently to midcoast Maine in 1998 where she relocated ARTgarden, and enjoyed working with her clients until a life-altering accident in 2011 motivated her to finally dedicate her days exclusively to her art. Her studio on Appleton Ridge in Appleton retains the name ARTgarden where ideas germinate, develop, and mature.

Artist Statement

The work you will see in the link to my website is my signature work, where my main medium is an assemblage of old books, parts of old books, and found objects. This is the work I have become known for but it is not what I am currently working on. What I am working on now is related to books, book arts, and is what I teach in my workshops.

Making art is an ever-evolving process and that process is seldom linear, at least in my life as an artist. Since 2018, for a number of different reasons, I have returned to my beginnings as a painter, mostly watercolor, though I also began making encaustic works. I have been doing more drawing and sketching. 

As a maker of artist books I am interested in the narrative that books present, or simply suggest, though my own books tend to evolve as series, or collections. Collections can suggest their own narrative. The turning of pages is both a literal and figurative progression which engages the viewer in before and after, past and future, time and memory.

“It is a book I am calling Common, Uncommon. It consists of a drawing of a natural object paired with a drawing of one of my little objects crafted from detritus I have found on Matinicus Island, or other shorelines, most of it from the fishing industry (bits of rope, bits of lobster traps, bits of bait bags, bits of fabric).

Above: Abbie Read, Common, Uncommon. Sharpie, Micron pen, Tombow brush pen; 6 ¼” X 4 ¼” X 2 ¼”.

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