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 Wilder Charles Oakes  (1956 - )

About: Wilder Charles Oakes


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Lived/Active: Maine      Known for: regional views, genre, constructions

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BIOGRAPHY for Wilder Oakes
1956 (Spruce Head, Maine)

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Often Known For
regional views, genre, constructions

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is submitted by the artist, September 2003

Wilder Oakes was born in Rockland, Maine, on August 8th 1956, and raised in the near by fishing village of Port Clyde, where generations of his family have made their living from the sea. Located at the southern-most tip of the St. George peninsula, with Monhegan Island only about 9 miles off shore, Port Clyde has always been a community known for it's rugged individualism. Today the artist lives in nearby Spruce Head.

Such gifted artists as, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, and three generations of the Wyeth family, have all come to Port Clyde on their way to Monhegan, or else settled nearby. The fact that Andrew Wyeth was often seen sketching or painting around town was not lost on the young artist. His uncle, Walter Anderson, was one of Wyeth's closest friends, and also one of his most notable models.

The painter William Thon, a respected contemporary of Andrew Wyeth (and of whom Andrew Wyeth, once said: "If you think my watercolors are good: you should see Bill Thon's " ) who settled here in the 1940s, recognized Charles' ability at an early age and became one of his mentors. Thon, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 94, maintained a close interest in the Artist's work.

Wilder Charles Oakes sees himself as a maverick and poetic visionary artist whose work is grounded in folk art and outsider art traditions and reflects both sophistication and naivete. He has had very little formal art education. He paints the people, places, and things, he genuinely loves .

A "typical" Oakes painting has memorable symbols of his childhood and seafaring heritage " of life in Port Clyde including the main street, back roads, Port Clyde General Store, Baptist and Advent churches, the wharfs, boats, and fishing shanties -- the "working waterfront" of Port Clyde as well as friends, family, and imaginery domestic and wild creatures such as "The Bears in The Village" (1981), "Wolfs (sic) at the Door" (1989), "Dreams on the Way Home" (1992) and most recently "Our Town", 2002

Of his environment, Oakes says: ". . . I grew up here and I'll be damned, but there's nothing like it. There's nothing on EARTH, like the smell of the SEA . . .and on a fine spring morning, in the fog and the rain, it's like having heaven open . . . ."

The artist has exhibited his work extensively in Maine museums including the Portland Museum of Art, Farnsworth Art Museum, Hobe Sound Galleries, The University of Maine, The State House In Augusta, and Bowdoin College, and with numerous galleries.

The artist's oil, watercolor, and painted wood constructions are represented in more than three-hundred private collections here in the United States and abroad.

Oakes maintains his home and studio in Spruce Head, another quiet mid-coast fishing community, still in the township of St. George, not at all too far from his familiars, old haunts and inspiration.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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