As many of you may know by now, one-of-a-kind painter, sculptor and illustrator Dahlov Ipcar passed away last month. She was 99 years young. I had been working closely with Dahlov and her family on behalf of the museum to organize an exhibition of her work for the OMAA’s 64th Season opening this May. Our plan was – and is – to revisit and reinterpret Dahlov’s first solo exhibition which took place at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939. That show, titled Creative Growth: Childhood to Maturity was the inaugural exhibit for a newly conceived Young Peoples Gallery and featured artworks rendered by the artist between the ages of three and twenty-one. OMAA’s 2017 exhibition will not simply reconstruct Dahlov’s MoMA exhibit, but rather offer a fresh look at patterns and themes that arise from this early and transformative body of work.
I was first introduced to Dahlov Ipcar’s art simultaneous to becoming familiar with another of Maine’s most celebrated animaliers, Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), at Tom Crotty’s Frost Gully Gallery in Portland as a high school art student in the late 1970’s. Dahlov’s paintings are richly colored, vibrant, and tightly patterned. They are completely devoid of empty spaces, incorporating all manner of shapes and sizes of domestic and exotic animals, resulting in paintings that are something akin to Lascaux cave painting crossed with that of brightly colored aboriginal patterning with that of jazz inspired cubism.
Over the years, I have met Dahlov at her art openings and book signings but it was not until recently that I was to be so fortunate as to get to know her and her art much more intimately after making visits to her Robinhood Cove home and studio in Georgetown this summer (August 23, 2016) and as recently as January 20, 2017, to select works for her upcoming exhibit.
Dahlov’s original MoMA exhibition was comprised of works that her father had previously collected that she had made from the age of three into her early twenties. The MoMA exhibition’s goal was to highlight the “uninhibited progress a child can make with proper stimulation and encouragement from intelligent teachers and parents.” It is noteworthy to point out that Dahlov’s exhibition was also MoMA’s inaugural exhibit of its Young Peoples Gallery, which was “to offer several important innovations to increase the Museum’s effectiveness as a teaching institution.”
When doing my studio visits with Dahlov, she talked about being a painter that engaged in nonintellectual cubism… She frowned on the intellectual affectations of the art world. Her impulse to paint was more immediate and intuitive – in the moment… The first mark gave rise and occasion for the next and so forth. Her invented ‘scapes were more often constructed of compositions that included triangles and circles… The various animal figures she depicted did not float or sit on top of the patterns but instead appear to emerge from those in between spaces organically. There are no empty spaces – think horror vacui…
Needless to say, it has been a considerable honor and privilege to be permitted to work with Dahlov to curate and present this important exhibition at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. I feel extremely fortunate to have gotten to know Dahlov Ipcar both personally and professionally- she is one of the State of Maine’s greatest artists and certainly one of the country’s finest.”
Photo: David Wade