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Finding: Source Material in the Archives of American Art

Reuben Tam

Reuben Tam is known for his paintings of the scenic coasts of Hawaii and Maine. Born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the artist began summering in Maine in 1948 with fellow painters from New York City. On Maine’s rocky coastline, Tam took photographs, sketched, and wrote poetry. Back in his studio, he relied on these sources to create expressive, semiabstract landscapes. In his poems and diary entries, he often describes his deep connection to the spirit of places and his desire to walk the shores of the world. Rough sketches often accompany poetic descriptions of his surroundings, such as the following:

Strewing fresh wreckage on the beach— Cold sands wet with wave and spray and rain. Silver driftwood in confusion beliven the grasses and the tide line. Together, these records articulate Tam’s careful devotion to the study of the land.

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