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Meet this Maine couple who are partners in love and art

John Bisbee and Emilie Stark-Menneg both work out of separate studios in the Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — For years John Bisbee was quite possibly Maine’s best-known sculptor, renowned for creating works out of nails and only nails. 

Then the pandemic came along and torpedoed a major out-of-state project Bisbee had been planning for more than a year. It prompted him to make a dramatic move: After 30 years, he stopped sculpting and walked away from it entirely.

“To my great detriment, I can only do what I want to do,” he told me. “And I had gotten somewhere with the nail, and I really thought it would be foolish not to attempt something new and see what I’ve learned.”

That something new turned out to be music. For months, Bisbee devoted his energy exclusively to writing and playing songs. Eventually, he picked up a brush and decided to try painting, which he’d never done.

“It’s so fun because I don’t know anything,” he said. “So everything is a discovery, and that’s a great way to get up every day—knowing you’re going to make a discovery.”

As Bisbee’s career has moved in new directions, Emilie Stark-Menneg’s has soared. She is a painter of big, bold, colorful works, and the demand for them has never been stronger than in the last couple of years. 

“I get so many ideas all the time,” she said, “So I’m just, like, firing on all cylinders.”

Bisbee and Stark-Menneg, who work out of separate studios in the Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick, are partners in love and art. 

Together for 10 years, they provide one another with constant support and encouragement. “I really couldn’t think of anything better,” Stark-Menneg said with a big smile, “Than [when] we get to share our crazy ideas with each other.”

Note: Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Portland will present the first exhibition of John Bisbee’s paintings in March. See the link above for details.

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