In a historic home in downtown Kennebunkport, gallery owner and artist Brad Maushart has created a space for his bold paintings, his slow life, and his international community.
Brad Maushart lives in a big old house in the middle of Kennebunkport, which may or may not be haunted. The building used to be the home of a sea captain, who imported salt to Maine, and according to Maushart, there was once a “double murder in the house, but that wasn’t really all that unusual.” When I asked if he is ever scared living in his rambling old house, he just laughs. “No, but when the kids were younger, sometimes they were scared to go in some of the rooms,” he says.
Maushart wasn’t drawn to the house out of any morbid inclination. Rather, it was artistic appreciation that compelled him to purchase the 200-year-old Greek Revival structure back in 1998. “The moment I saw it, I knew it needed a lot of love,” he remembers. “If I couldn’t do the work myself, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. But each winter, I work on fixing up one room.” Piece by piece, the house is coming together as the painter, photographer, and DIY expert makes his way from room to room.
While he is modernizing certain elements—“I need a modern kitchen,” he says—he’s chosen to leave much of the original character in place, like the graceful tin ceilings and the traditional horsehair plaster walls. Maushart also chose to keep the original windows. They are wavy and distorted, relics from a time when crown glass (a process by which a glassblower creates a bubble of molten glass that is stretched and molded into a plate using a wooden panel) was standard. “When you look through the old lead-paned windows, you feel a little like you’re looking at one of my old Polaroids,” he says, referring to his earlier work with abstract and distorted photography.
The 64-year-old artist has switched his mediums over the years. Painting is his current passion, but when it comes to selling his recent work, he displays a sanguine acceptance. “If I sell art, I sell art,” he says. “If I don’t, I don’t. I enjoy making it. When I do sell a piece, my wife, Donna, is happy.” He is, he explains, perfectly happy either way.
Maushart came by his laid-back attitude after years of living in Massachusetts and working as a photographer. “Everyone is a little stressed out in Massachusetts,” he says. We all live in Maine for the lifestyle. I sometimes see people who come to Maine to visit, and they look at me like I’m living their dream. To not own a cellphone? That seems unreal to them.”
It’s true that Maushart doesn’t have a cellphone. He lives his life untethered to text messages and free from 24-hour email. When he wants to get something from the shop, he grabs the cordless phone from his house and takes it with him. “The reception isn’t great,” he says. “But I’m happier without a cellphone. If you want to see me, come over and see me. In the old days, we got by.”
The same philosophy applies to his gallery, where he encourages visitors to drop in for conversation and coffee. His gallery, f-8, is located in a 200-year-old barn attached to his home, where he displays his paintings of the nude form, which are composed in a gestural, energetic, and often-abstract style. “The light in the barn is great for viewing art,” he says. The large, airy space feels welcoming to guests, who like to come “hang out, look at some paintings, and maybe party a bit,” he says. “My gallery lets me meet people from all over the world. Travel is good for you—it opens your eyes.” He and his wife, Donna, have traveled to Cape Town and Montreal to visit people they met at the gallery. “My work is really popular in Montreal,” he says. (Americans, Maushart says, don’t always appreciate nudes the way his European or Canadian customers do. “Sometimes, parents will come in and cover their kids’ eyes,” he laughs.)
While many of Maushart’s works are created during his weekly painting group, where he works with nude models alongside a dozen other artists, sometimes he enjoys the solitude of painting by himself in the barn. He also brings his creative sense to play in the house, which offers inspiration in the form of found objects. “You find things in a house this old,” he says. “I found an old sign from the 1900s. It was from a pharmaceutical company in Paris. I incorporated that into the pantry.” Another treasured object is a vintage cod hook from the days before fishing hooks had eyes. “They would just braid the rope around it,” he says. “It’s an incredible piece.”
Maushart has had many years to learn about the house and its nooks and crannies, but he admits that the structure remains unfinished. It’s an ongoing project—a true labor of love. As he’s worked on the house, he’s learned quite a lot about home restoration, including details like how to cut scarf joints on exterior clapboards to match them to the original, as well as bigger-picture things, like how much historic houses can cost to maintain. “It costs a lot of money to keep it up, and it’s a lot of work to fix things.” When asked how many rooms he has in the house, he chuckles and replies, “Well, I’ve got to say, there’s quite a few.”
Living in a home that is constantly under repair may bother some, but it seems to suit Maushart’s lifestyle. Every day from April until November, he gets up and goes for a swim in the ocean. Later, he decides whether to paint, open the gallery, or maybe make a slow-smoked barbecue (he has a smoker in the backyard that he calls the “Brad Pitt”). “I’ve slowed my life down a lot,” he says. “I’m patient. I’m happy. I like to swim fast, but live slow.” I ask him if he’s retired, or if he has any plans to do so. “Can I retire? I am retired!” But retired or not, I have a feeling this lifelong creator and world traveler will never stop making, improving, and adding beauty to his own little corner of the world.