Artists highlight Middleboro’s landscapes and patriotism

Nov 5, 2023

MIDDLEBORO – When artist Obie Miller came to downtown Middleboro to create a painting for the True Grit Art Gallery’s painting festival, he happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture the  Lieutenant Angelo AJ Lapanna III’s funeral in a painting he titled “Hometown Heroes.”

“That morning, I came down here to paint, and I was walking around town. What struck me were the flags that were up,” Miller said. “I didn’t know what was going on. And then I started seeing signs in some of the stores that said we’re closed today for Lieutenant Lapanna’s funeral.”

Miller’s painting, which captured the motion of American flags flying in downtown Middleboro, ended up winning first place in True Grit Art Gallery’s 2023 Nemasket Plein Air Festival competition. The judge of the competition, Peter Damon, said that he chose the painting because of “its lively play of art and shadow” and because of how the painting “encapsulated the spirit of this town.”

“It had some patriotic symbolism and I thought this was a traditional, patriotic town,” Damon said. “It just had some great artistic merit as well.”

The Nemasket Plein Air Festival is a month-long event where artists are invited to Middleboro to paint different locations around the town. Many of the paintings from the festival are now being exhibited at the True Grit Art Gallery on 38 Center Street in Middleboro, and the exhibition will last until Nov. 26.

Damon, the owner of True Grit Art Gallery, also served as a judge for the competition, and awarded different paintings prizes for being in first, second, and third place.

Damon said it “was really hard” to choose between paintings from the festival. “There were so many good ones,” he said.

Although Miller doesn’t live in Middleboro, he said that the brief amount of time he had spent painting in Middleboro left him with a strong impression of the town.

“You really get a strong sense of the town [by] spending a few days painting here,” Miller said. “Stores were closed for this particular gentleman, so it seems like a tight knit town.”

The second place winner, Maureen Vezina, created a painting of Oliver Mill Park in Middleboro. Vezina said she was drawn to the small waterfall and the stonework at the park.

“The stonework I love,” Vezina said. “My husband and I have painted in Ireland, and we did a lot of stonework, and Oliver Mill reminds me of that stonework. But of course the colors scream New England.”

As she was painting, a person was walking their dog nearby, and that dog noticed a heron. Veniza said she wanted to incorporate that interaction in her painting as well. 

“When you stand there for two hours painting a picture, you’re bound to see something unusual,” Veniza said. “In this case I saw the dog and it had spotted the heron which was sitting up on the fence. So it was kind of a cute moment.”

Damon said that the festival and the exhibit were a way of celebrating Middleboro. 

“Every town or area needs to celebrate its culture, its history, and that’s what we wanted to do here,” Damon said.