Portland Loses Bob Solotaire

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Bob Solotaire was a fixture in art in Maine for many years. He was a very good artist and good guy to have around. He was quirky and odd, but in a good way. I first met him in Portland in the late 1970's and was struck by the coherence of his landscapes, particularly the industrial constructions like views of the cement plant in Thomaston.


He was the only person I ever knew who would drive long distances to places that other people would avoid, just to see some old iron foundries or coal tipples that would make good paintings. In the fall of 1982 I had just moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, living in a  loft in the then-unfashionable north end of that city, near the propeller plant and a couple of soap factories.


I was barely moved in, still working on the loft, when Bob showed up on my doorstep, unannounced. He was driving an old VW, a Rabbit if memory serves,  that was crammed to the gills with painting gear and a few bits of regular luggage. He stopped over for a little while and then moved on, on his way, I think, to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, looking for defunct industrial landscapes. Bob was the kind of guy you didn't mind if he showed up with no advance notice. And who would go sightseeing in industrial wastelands.


His artistic life was never easy but he stuck to it tenaciously. He had enough friends and people who liked his work so he could get it shown, but I don't think it ever sold well. For quite a while he ran a rooming house in the west end to make ends meet, a place with a gloriously overgrown yard and a small studio filled with paintings, drawings, studies and general artistic clutter.


It makes me very sad that I will never see him again.

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