The University of Maine at Presque Isle's Reed Fine Art Gallery will present the exhibition Evelyn Kok: A Creative Life from April 18 through May 15, highlighting several works by Presque Isle's own Evelyn Kok.Evelyn Kok was raised in Boston, Massachusetts surrounded by creative family members. Her mother studied drawing, her father was a master with a paint brush, her grandfather made a square-sided cello and her great-grandfather made cameras; and Kok grew up observing and absorbing it all.
Kok went to art school in Boston and specialized in Graphic Analysis. She swears that this prepared the student to be able to draw anything and everything that might come along, and it gave the greatest opportunity to draw something exactly as you saw it. With that training, she illustrated a text book on thoracic surgery. She also studied x-ray medical photography and observed live surgical procedures. She attended autopsies where the doctor provided her with body parts to draw; a lung for example, by which she learned the differences between how a healthy lung looked compared to one that was diseased. She learned how to tie surgical knots and illustrate the process. When an early heart-lung machine was coming into use, she could draw it precisely for publication. Trained in the fine art of lettering, she was able to artistically label her illustrations for medical papers, so that her work would meet the exacting requirements for publication and guarantee the next meal.
She fell in love with her husband Jan Kok, a Teaching Fellow in Music at Harvard University. He was offered employment teaching music courses at what was then the Aroostook State Normal School, so the young couple traveled north to make a life for themselves in Aroostook County. She gave water color lessons and guitar lessons in her home. She created a map of Aroostook County for the County Chamber of Commerce, which conveyed her love of the County. For her, the only thing missing in the County was the smell of salt air and the sound of gulls.
She is able to enjoy them now at the couple's studio in Stonington during the summer months. When the schooners sail into Stonington Harbor during their Penobscot Bay excursions, on which she has sailed many times, she and her husband often get an invitation to come out for supper and sing on the deck. They may sing some of her songs about "The County" and explain why they love it "way up there" enough to go back north in the middle of October.