BEVERLY — Most people look west to watch the sun set, but Carol Pelletier looks east.
“In the east, if there’s a bank of clouds, it acts as a canvas,” said Pelletier, chairwoman of the fine arts department at Endicott College. “That sunset hits the bank of clouds, and those subtleties — there could be five or six different colors in the sky.”
The light is too intense and clear if you look toward a sunset, she said. “I like the haze. I’m trying to capture the subtleties.”
Pelletier’s most recent works are currently on display in “Local Ground,” an exhibit at the Manninen Center for the Arts at Endicott College through May 24.
As the title of her show implies, Pelletier also cherishes a sense of place, which is evident in paintings of local scenes like West Beach.
But while they look away from setting suns, each painting in Pelletier’s series also faces a horizon of ocean and sky, which introduce mystery into her surroundings.
“For me, it’s about familiarity, but it’s also about the unknown,” she said. “And what is unknown is what you see on that horizon.”
It’s a paradox, but Pelletier finds consolation in that sense of uncertainty.
“It’s more calming, it’s softer than a vertical space, or trees that break up that space,” she said. “If I’m putting anything vertical in the space, it has to be ethereal, it has to be atmospheric.”
Pelletier was surrounded by vertical shapes, in the form of the mountains of West Virginia, when she taught at West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1997 to 2011.
The fact that those mountains were also landlocked, just like Fort Kent in northern Maine, where she grew up, was another source of discomfort.
Pelletier wanted to paint the ocean, which she lived near for three years after attending college in Presque Isle, another landlocked town in northern Maine.