Paintings by a Belfast man who drowned in the Penobscot River 22 years ago will be shown and sold at Waterfall Arts this December. Harry “Sandy” Balmforth, a 1971 graduate of Belfast Area High School who also attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, was an artist from childhood who created moody seascapes, animal portraits, academic exercises and paintings with religious overtones that some described as “disturbing.”
The paintings, mostly oils on a variety of surfaces, were stored in the Balmforth family’s home on Route 1 in Belfast. This spring the Belfast Lions Club was given the contents of the home, including more than 100 pieces of art. Steve Curtis of the Lions Club said, “The Lions donated the paintings to Waterfall Arts and we’re happy to have found an appropriate home for them.”
Several classmates remember Balmforth as a tall, thin man with sandy red hair who had juvenile-onset diabetes. Juliane Dow, who recently moved back to Belfast, said Balmforth was a member of her class at the Peirce School, where the teacher placed him in a closet while he ate the cookies he needed to adjust his blood sugar. Balmforth sat near her in elementary school, she recalled, as their names were close in the alphabet. “He was compelled to be drawing,” she said, along with another local boy, Jeff Jennings. “He was an artist from early childhood.”
Mary Weaver Dutch, who was president of the BAHS Class of 1971, said her mother had one of Balmforth’s paintings on the wall of her room at Penobscot Shores. She said he was “very quiet and kept to himself.” His paintings were “very dark,” she said. Bob Stover, another classmate who became a musician and magazine publisher, remembered Balmforth carrying a drum set up Main Street and playing music, loudly, in his backyard. Stover said he has a couple of Balmforth sketches and found some of his work “disturbing in some ways.”
Balmforth studied in Boston and later moved to Winterport where he lived alone in a house by the river. He disappeared in October of 1991 and the Bangor Daily News published several stories about the search for the man who was well-known in the community as a regular walker and collector of bottles.
The obituary in the BDN said Balmforth “was a well-known artist with his art having been exhibited in public buildings in many communities throughout the state of Maine and across the country.”
The display and sale, part of Waterfall Arts’ affordable holiday show, will be held at 256 High Street, Belfast, from December 6th through 23rd. Prices will be low as Waterfall Arts’ goal is to give the community a chance to see and buy work by this local artist,
Cut Log - Sandy Balmforth Painting