The crisp white Gothic Revival building is nestled against a clutch of pines and across the road from a field that looks like something that Andrew Wyeth would paint. When we pulled up, a man in a T-shirt and jeans was mowing the lawn just inside a low stone wall, and his dog, Lily, an energetic shepherd type, barked away at us as we parked. The man stopped mowing, came up and introduced himself as Andy Davis from the historical society that has just spent $200,000 to restore the 1842 building. “There’s a concert tonight,” he said, then looked skyward. “I sure hope the weather holds out.”
Soon enough, he picked up on our impatience. “Oh, have you never been here before?” he asked, echoing the gallery worker. He rushed to open the door for us, although it wasn’t locked. (It never is, as it turns out.)
We’d heard what awaited us, but we weren’t quite prepared for what we saw. The lines of the interior are stark, even plain. But every inch of wall and ceiling is covered in wild, sweeping, kaleidoscopic — almost psychedelic — frescoes, painted in the 1950s by artists from the Skowhegan School. We were overwhelmed.
The largest image is a huge face of Christ with trumpeting angels all around; it’s upside down from the audience’s perspective, which means that it was oriented to be seen by the speaker at the wide wooden podium. But I couldn’t take my eyes off a whirling image of a ball of trumpets, flames, wings, clouds, horns and — are those the Ten Commandments tablets? It started to make sense; there’s a man holding his hands up as if to worship. The whirling ball would be God, the worshiping man Moses.
Storm clouds rain on waves and ships in one section, and we spied an ark. Hands surround the sun in another; that would be Creation, right? And on and on. As Davis continued buzzing around the lawn with his mower and Lily trotted in and out and up and down the aisles to check on us, we marveled in every direction. Natural light filtered in from the large windows, and the effect was almost like that of seeing a fully tattooed body; we could back up and take it in as a whole, or get closer and become lost in the swirls of color, the symbols, the passionate energy of it all. The building seemed alive.