TEXT BY SARAH ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MEREDITH PERDUE
During summer open houses at Meredith Perdue’s backyard art gallery, in South Portland, guests can view for-sale works arrayed on the interior and exterior walls of her sky-blue 1750 Cape; inside a matching garden cottage; and on the barn door of a tidy moss-colored shed. While they mull the offerings, they can stroll a pebble path studded with raised beds that leads to a seating area with a firepit and a cedar-barrel sauna, as their kids play in the fenced yard or swing in a hammock strung between a willow and a Norway spruce. The experience at The Willard Gallery is intimate, Perdue says, because, well, so is art — “it’s a window into what inspires us, what excites us, what moves us.”
ABOVE A pastel still life by Theresa Drapkin and a fanciful oil by Elizabeth Endres decorate Meredith Perdue’s South Portland backyard, which also features raised beds, a cedar barrel sauna, and an airy gallery in a whitewashed garden cottage.
For Perdue, the emotional response was first triggered when she was 11 years old, observing her sister, a promising painter who died tragically in a car crash at age 17, work in her studio. “I love art and I always have since I was little, watching my sister,” says Perdue, who, as a photographer, has long enjoyed promoting artist clients. In May of 2021, she opened her by-appointment art consultancy and gallery, featuring works by nearly two dozen of her favorite painters from Maine and beyond. (The entire catalog is also available online.) Among them: gauzy pastel-colored landscapes by Sorrento’s Claire Cushman, textural still lifes and seascapes by Lubec’s Stephen Dinsmore, and expressive terriers and spaniels by celebrity pet-portrait artist Robert James Clarke. Often, Perdue will bring pieces to area collectors so they can hang them up, live with them for a day, and see if they possess that ineffable element of belonging.
Other clients fall in love right in her backyard. “It’s really amazing to watch someone respond to a painting,” Perdue says. “They stop in their tracks. There’s a gasp or a comment. Inviting people into this space, witnessing their reactions, it’s something really beautiful.”