In the wake of the death of a woman from Stockton Springs, a secret has been discovered in her home
STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine – In a yellow ranch house perched above the wide blue expanse of the Lower Penobscot River in the village of Sandy Point, there’s a secret.
The secret is on the walls – huge murals of a lighthouse, a sponge-painted forest of fall trees and tidy colonial houses, a sailboat streaking across the bay and more.
These are the creations of Tina Pesce, who lived in the house and recently passed away after a long period of declining health.
Perhaps because of these health issues, she was not known to many in the community. The discovery after his death of the murals and his other works of art surprised the neighbors.
“It’s very cool,” said Peter Walls, an artist and muralist from Stockton Springs this week. “Looks like she did it the way she wanted to, piece by piece… the interesting part of what she did is you can tell it must be what she loved.”
Pesce moved to Maine from Massachusetts with his son, Robert, sometime after 2000, according to Veronica Garvey Magnan, a neighbor who also lived in the village of Sandy Point in Stockton Springs. Magnan did not know Pesce’s age, but estimated that she was in her sixties when she died in August.
She had divorced and was starting over, perhaps in an effort to make her art a priority in her life. Pesce bought his house in part because it was located on American Highway 1, where many vehicles pass every day. She sets up a small workshop to sell her paintings, that’s how Magnan, an art lover, meets her.
“It had very simple and clean lines. Her sense of composition and sense of color was really nice, ”said Magnan. “I think she considered herself a talented amateur… she had skills and talent.”
But it wasn’t long before his health problems forced him to close the studio. Among a series of illnesses Pesce struggled with was cancer and arthritis so debilitating that they ended up robbing him of the ability to paint. She donated her supplies to Sunday School at the nearby Sandy Point Congregational Church, of which Robert, who has autism and lived with his mother as an adult, had joined.
“We worshiped him in the church community,” Magnan said. “We loved her, and she knew it. She knew we were there to support him.
Although Pesce was not very well known, she attended as many community events as she could and donated paintings whenever there was an auction or fundraiser.
But she was very private, Magnan said. During her later years, she devoted much of her remaining energy to taking care of Robert. Another son lives in California.
“She stayed alive for Robert as long as she could,” Magnan said. “Two years ago she was so sick we couldn’t imagine surviving. But a week later, she was driving Robert again. She was a determined Yankee… her main focus was Robert.
After his death, Robert went to live with his family in another state. A family member contacted by the Bangor Daily News on Friday said a team of cleaners had been asked to empty the house and prepare it for a possible sale. This was how the neighbors were able to come in to see the murals, take pictures which were shared on a local Facebook page. Residents of Stockton Springs were surprised and impressed with what they saw in the photos.
“Holy cow, they are amazing,” wrote one person.
“What a talent,” commented another.
The social media post explains how Walls came to view Pesce’s art, which reminded him of the work of Rufus Porter, an artist and inventor from Maine who traveled to New England in the 19th century to paint murals of landscapes on people’s houses.
At the time, there was a more solid tradition of painting the walls of houses, Walls said.
“The walls weren’t as sacred as the interior decoration as they are now,” he said. “It was a different attitude.”
Because Pesce painted on drywall, it seems likely to him that sooner or later his murals will disappear.
“They will probably go away,” he said.
Magnan thinks so too.
“All art is ephemeral. It’s like that with art, ”she said. “But it would be a shame if someone came and destroyed this.”
Many who have heard of the murals would love to see them saved somehow, including Meg Haskell, who also lives in Sandy Point.
“I don’t know what will happen to these paintings,” she said. “I think everyone who saw them wishes there was a way to preserve them for the future.”
Seeing the murals was, for many neighbors, a first glimpse of the hidden talent and passion of a woman who lived near them but was not well known, if at all.
“I’m sorry I never heard from her. Now I know she was a very accomplished artist, ”Haskell said. “I would have liked to know her. ”
The wave of appreciation for murals and paintings is a good thing, Magnan said, adding that she thought Pesce would have appreciated it.
“Deep in their heart, every artist wants to be recognized,” she said. “It’s a tribute to a calm person.”