Artist's Statement

I started doing watercolor painting around 2001, after I retired from 42 years of practice as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. I also had a brief career as a pediatrician. During these many years I had no experience or formal training in studio arts. However, I always had a keen interest in art history, visiting museums, art galleries, etc. Also, while working with my patients I often had a mental image of two people going up to a blank canvas and simultaneously painting. I realized that the "finished product" was the result of a joint effort and that what I put on the canvas was strongly influenced by my patient.

Early on, when I was a student at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, I frequently had the opportunity to spend weekends at the home of Hans Hoffman. I was fascinated by his use of color as an expression of emotional states. Later, I became acquainted with Wolf Kahn, who studied with Hoffman. And yet, during all this time, I did not pick up a brush.

Finally, upon retirement, I decided to try my hand at painting. I accidentally ended up in a watercolor class and somehow stayed with that medium. Rather quickly, my own style emerged as reflected in the paintings you are about to see. Often I have tried, unsuccessfully, to find a way to explain or describe my creative experience. Most of the time I am surprised by the finished product, not knowing when I start what will happen. I have come to realize that I have an intuitive ability to utilize color and it is a reflection of feelings which frequently I am not fully aware of while painting a particular scene or object. I have been told, including by a graphologist who analyzed my handwriting, that somehow I have kept alive a part of childhood and it is reflected in the wonderment, whimsy, play and color of these paintings. I hope that these works bring a smile to your face.


Written by: Bob Keyes, of the Press Herald; reprinted here by permission
Artwork photos by Bob Delaney

Harry Beskind began painting after he retired as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, a career that lasted 42 years. But in a sense, his painting has only extended his professional work.

A watercolor painter with a sense of humor and a dramatic love of color, Beskind, 85, paints whimsical, fanciful fantasies. He paints in nature -- "en plein air," as the French like to say. And while the final results of those paintings reflect what Beskind sees in his mind, they don't necessarily reflect the actual scenes -- or what we perceive as reality.

"Chimera"; Watercolor on paper, 14x20 inches

He paints squid trees giving birth to squid babies, a fisherman who has worked among gulls so long he begins resembling them, and dancing apple trees.

Somewhere along the way, his paintings crossed the boundary from everyday conscious reality to unconscious fantasies.

"In my retirement, I have had in a certain sense, through the art, a continuation of aspects of my career. It's not the same, but it's similar in becoming aware that there is more going on in a person's life than the conscious reality," he said. "Art expands our awareness of ourselves and the world."

Beskind, who lives in Yarmouth, will show three dozen of his paintings beginning Wednesday through March 3 at Merill Memorial Library in Yarmouth. There's a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

All the work is for sale, and proceeds will benefit the Mercy Oncology at Mercy Hospital in Portland, where Beskind is receiving treatment for leukemia. For the opening, Beskind also has arranged to distribute information to people about cancer care and related issues. "As soon as the word 'cancer' comes, the whole world collapses," he said. "I think it's important to share information about what to expect, the right questions to ask and things like that."

"Damariscotta River on Fire One Million Years Ago";
Watercolor on paper, 14x20 inches

Raising money for cancer care isn't new to Beskind. A year ago, when he was 84, he was the oldest participant in the Pan-Mass Challenge bike ride across Massachusetts, raising $15,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That's where he began his treatment four years ago.

The first clue that he was sick was the fatigue that he felt after a bike ride in 2014. He had trouble riding up hills. A blood test revealed low white blood cells, platelets and hemoglobin. The diagnosis came soon after: acute myelogenous leukemia. Beskind's leukemia also had an uncommon genetic mutation, and he was referred to Dana-Farber for an experimental drug treatment that involved weekly, sometimes week-long visits to Boston.

He now receives the drug through Mercy, for which he grateful.

Beskind's art education consisted mostly of going to museums. When he was a student in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he spent weekends at the home of the painter Hans Hofmann and was moved by Hofmann's use of color to express emotions. Later, Beskind became enamored of Wolf Kahn, who studied with Hofmann and also made bold color choices.

He took his first painting class in October 2001 at the former Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta. It happened to be watercolor class, but it could have been any media, Beskind said. For that first class, he was given a radish and told to paint it, not with a brush but with his fingers. He had hoped to paint something about Sept. 11 -- and in his own way, he did.

"It didn't look anything like radishes," he said, laughing. "I realized in my own painterly way, I was painting something about 9/11."

That's when he learned that one of the purposes of art is to give the viewer the opportunity to have different experiences with it. A painting of radishes means something to one person and something else entirely to another person, and both are valid, Beskind said.

When he shows his art, Beskind likes to display a yellow "CAUTION" sign, warning viewers they may have "an unexpected, spontaneous and involuntary experience" that involves memories and fantasies that may be related to prior experiences in life. "In that sense," his sign says, "these paintings are merely a vehicle to the inner aspects of your soul. Art is a human necessity, not an option. Enjoy!"

WHEN: Opens Wednesday, through March 3; reception 5 to 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Merrill Memorial Library, 215 Main St., Yarmouth
NOTE: Proceeds from sales of artwork in the show will benefit the Oncology Center at Mercy Hospital

Harry Beskind's Art

by Ellen Hutcheson, 11/22/2017

With the eye of a child and the soul of a shaman Harry Beskind paints images that emerge from some instinctual place inside himself. While Harry claims to have no idea what he is doing and how he got there, he appears to be guided by some deep, primal, intuitive knowing that has little to do with his thinking mind.

His artistic expression is a dimension of whimsical forms on the surface, while on another deeper level shape shifts into profound and often complex worlds of the human condition, the environment, and issues of concern for both. In this realm lies depth, meaning, sophistication, and brilliance.

Are we seeing a child's fanciful dream world? Are these images his manifestation of ancient life forms bubbling up from the collective unconscious? Are these images profoundly whimsical or whimsically profound? It doesn't really matter what our projections may be about them, they most definitely evoke an emotional response from the viewer of what is often left unspoken in our lives.

Harry paints as he does in spite of himself and like no other. No lessons, classes, teachings alter his distinctive style. It just emerges. On the surface Harry's artistic style is direct, bold, often simplistic and childlike. Do not be fooled for under the surface lies the gift of a uniquely creative artist, the brush of a wise man, and the heart of a healer.