by Joan Sinisi
Photos: Larry HaydenWhile working on an assignment for OMAA’s Docent Education Committee, I had the privilege of visiting Gary Haven Smith at his home and studio in Northwood, NH. He was the most open, honest professional artist and gracious host that anyone could have wished to meet. He was also a consummate teacher. Early in his career, he made this space amidst trees and rough “granite state” rocks into a place where, for the rest of his adult life, he could take these rocks from his and his neighbors’ yards and transform them into magnificent works of art. They were almost always undulating abstract formations of stone that sprang from the natural world that he loved so much. Twisted ribbons of granite and at least a hundred larger pieces of stone with the marks and cuts of a sculptor lay all around the land and buildings like fossilized bones. Gary told me he had already made about 800 sculptures and still seemed to collect more interesting stone and wood than he would ever use in a lifetime. Just as these layers of glacial granite hold the marks of earth’s ancient history, this artist’s carvings, cut-outs, edges and patterns were all very modern looking but seemed as if they were his petroglyphs and undecipherable script that he had left on our earth. How fortunate we are at OMAA to have had his work in our sculpture garden all year to study and enjoy! He was so very pleased to have this installation and told me so.
Two Boys, (or Two Figures on a Blanket), n.d., watercolor and graphite on paper, Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Museum Purchase, 1966.9
By Michael Mansfield
I was still in my first few days at the museum and just getting to know the collections and the history of Ogunquit when I met DeWitt Hardy. One of the first personalities to introduce himself to me, DeWitt came by to deliver some material he had been looking into on behalf of the museum and agreed to join the museum staff for lunch. He spoke with us for a brief 15 minutes, but shared over 50 years’ worth of insights about the building, the gardens and the exhibitions here. He told us about his travels to New York looking for artists to show, and teased us about how far the museum had come from the ‘early days.’ For me, it was an outstanding introduction to this beloved place from one of the original characters in OMAA’s story.
DeWitt first visited Ogunquit with his parents in 1953, coincidentally the year the museum opened. He went on to become a pivotal fixture and leading voice in the art community here, beginning with the Ogunquit Art Association. He was deeply devoted to his fellow artists at the Barn Gallery, and championed their work at every opportunity. He served as associate director and curator at OMAA from 1965 to 1976, working with both Henry Strater and John Dirks. An acclaimed watercolorist, DeWitt was the featured artist in a 2015 exhibition here, and OMAA is honored to hold several of his works in the permanent collection. DeWitt Hardy will be deeply missed, but his contributions to both Ogunquit and to American Art will be with us in perpetuity.
by Michael Mansfield
Carl Austin Hyatt, “S # 28, Portsmouth Harbor Salt Pile Series,” printed 2015, 50″ x 60,″ archival pigment ink on watercolor paper
OMAA has a devoted core of docents and volunteers. Their heartfelt commitment is one of many traits that makes this museum such a special place. They play a unique role with audiences, at once offering tours, answering questions and serving as the voice for the collections. OMAA docents also engage in conversation with visitors about works of art and the experiences they present. Modest or provocative, their stories offer a unique view into the ways in which art reaches people. One such moment was recently relayed to me by Marsha Northrop, who has been a docent with OMAA for seven years.
“I saw a tall elderly man gazing at Carl Austin Hyatt’s photographs of the salt piles. He stood before each photo studying it carefully before slowly moving onto the next. I eventually approached him and asked what he thought of the pictures as it was obvious to me that they were making an impact on him.
He told me that he had worked for 35 years unloading that salt from the ships and building those enormous piles. What so surprised and amazed him was that over all those years he never looked at the piles he was creating as works of art. He never noticed how beautiful they really were until he walked into our exhibit.
I told him that there’s a difference between looking and seeing. You can look at something every day but not really see it however today he actually SAW what he had been looking at for all those years. He told me that it was exciting for him to discover this.
I noticed that as he moved through the other galleries he kept returning to gaze yet again at the salt piles.”
This also highlights the remarkable role that artists play in revealing the world in which we live. Artists generally, and certainly Hyatt in particular, focus our attention on something we see daily and place it in a different light. Hyatt is inviting us to give some attention to the great forces at work in the world. Marsha and her visitor’s experience reflect what happens when that succeeds.
The exhibition catalog, “Carl Austin Hyatt: Salt/Sea/Stone,” published on the occasion of the show’s installation at OMAA, is available in the museum gift shop or for purchase online.
by Julia Einstein*
When I visit the gardens at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, my thoughts fill with imagined images of Langlais sculptures leaping to visit the Zorach’s. Today, my focus is on composing views to create my upcoming OMAA Garden Invention. It’s designed to be participatory, as a way to invite new perspectives into my work that are unique to this spot.
Imagine a transparent canvas—one you are able to view from an artist’s perspective through the garden to the seascape beyond. If you are visiting OMAA that day, you’ll come upon my studio, set up in the garden, with large paintings on easels, as a sort of window from which you can see through to play with the interpretive space. I’m interested in that space where a viewer encounters a work of art, and is enticed to explore a bit to discover ideas, and to make their own meaning. And, if you arrive at the museum in the morning, you’ll meet a group of third grade students as they play with selected views, use their “artist’s eyes” and look into the painting’s view.
My studio is filled with flowers gathered, posed, and painted as portraits. I’m inspired by flowers picked from the garden, rather than those cultivated in the greenhouse. I love the subject of window views with that visual play of inside-outside in the tradition of still life from Henri Matisse to Jane Freilicher. For my Garden Intervention, I’ll start a painting in my studio to continue on view in the OMAA gardens. I will share my creative space.
*Artist Julia Einstein’s OMAA Garden Intervention, “The Artist’s Garden,” takes place in the OMAA sculpture gardens Wednesday, June 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
by Gail Spaien
Throughout my career I have explored the intersection of nature and culture guided by the question – how do I bring the natural world into a static gallery setting? So last year, when Interim Director, Andy Verzosa asked me to exhibit work in the 2017 season, my first thought was to develop a series inspired by the physical experience I have when I walk into the great hall of the museum —a sensation of walking into an architectural space that is both inside and outside at the same time.
LEFT: Gail Spaien, “Serenade 6,” 34×36″, acrylic on linen, 2017
Here are some notes that I made throughout the year in preparation for my exhibition Serenade.
1. A painting is an object that functions as a window, a decoration and as a thing that can transform one’s surroundings and psychological state.
2. Landscape paintings emphasize the fact that walls separate us from nature. Hanging pictures of the outdoors on the walls of a home makes a room feel larger by adding a vista that connects one to the natural world.
3. As a handmade simulation of the environment, landscape paintings offer respite, escape and an opportunity to sit, look and contemplate.
4. Because I believe our times are asking for places to pause and neutralize strong emotion I paint the world as I would like it to be — a place where emotions remain light. In doing so, I consider the idea that denial is a productive state. Translating the sensations of the world around me, my paintings depict an idealized view of nature and a denial of unpleasant things.
5. I choose landscape and still life as subject matter and invite the viewer to experience a painting as an object that holds an opportunity for renewal, physical intimacy and affective power.
6. “Just as Norman Rockwell painted pictures of middle class America as it wanted to see itself, many artists today draw on sentimental iconography to represent the world as they wish it could be or as they long to remember it. Inherent to this earnest sentimental imagery is the yearning to transcend a disturbing or mundane reality for a sweeter, gentler existence.”(1). (1)Nick Capasso, Pretty Sweet: The Sentimental Image in Contemporary Art, catalog essay, DeCordova Museum, 2005)
7. Objects and images that have a sentimental quality are not concerned with beauty or longing or strong emotions. Sentimentality neutralizes emotion to a safe strength. Sentimental imagery and aesthetic pleasure for it’s own sake is a way to express life’s poignancy.
8. I think a lot about what I am seeing how to get others to see.
9. Exacting placement is essential. I spend hours moving one flower here and there to get it just right. My purview is limited to what I want to see. Perception is controlled. All chaotic parts are eliminated. I have to consciously remind myself to let things over lap because I’m inclined to have every shape isolated from every other shape.
10. Painting is a physical manifestation of life. In the best case it brings us in closer contact with what it means to be alive, to be human and heightens our awareness about that which is not visible.
11. Painting is the enactment of pure freedom. It is the enactment of denial, escape and pleasure. It is the enactment of uncertainty and visual display of process.
12. Painting is a philosophical pursuit because it involves deep focus and thinking involves deep focus as well. Deep focus is akin to prayer. Painting and philosophy are just other ways of being involved in prayer. It is the enactment of deep thought.
13. I am a painter of seasons. I want to be more than a painter of seasons yet being from New England — what else is there to paint about really?
14. The progression of my art mirrors the arc of my life. Personal experiences of loss and my integration of those losses underlie the content of my paintings. My core inquiry as an artist – how do I give form to life’s poignancy?
15. My work is humanistic and as such is concerned with emotion. Well-being and mortality, pleasure and sorrow are the reoccurring themes that are referenced. Daily life is at the heart of my content.
16.The artists of Ukiyo-e, samplers, mourning paintings, botanical watercolors and Japanese embroidery; Early American portraiture and the epic landscapes of the Hudson River school; Dutch still life painters, American Folk Art traditions, decorative and hobby techniques, Giotto, Walt Disney, digital animation, and American painters like Florene Stettheimer, Arthur Dove, Milton Avery, Helen Torr, Agnes Martin, Horace Pippin are artworks I look at again and again. Repetitive handwork, genre painting and the charm of the New England landscape are core sources. Labor, dignity, humility and integrity are regional values and ones that are manifest in my paintings.
17.My artistic lineage includes the Impressionists and Post Impressionists – Rousseau, Monet, Morandi, and Bonnard and contemporary artists such as Jonathan Borofsky, Jane Freilicher, Chris Martin, Anne Craven and William Wiley.
Henry Rousseau, “The Sleeping Gypsy,” 129.5×200.7 cm, oil on canvas, 1897.
Giorgio Morandi, “Still Life,” 21×24 inches, oil on canvas, 1946, London, Tate. not in exhibition. reproduced from Resistance and Memory, p.9 (c)Giorgio Morandi by SIAE 2008.
Jane Freilicher, “Jar of Forsythia,” 1990.
Ann Craven, “Dear and Daises (Life of the Fawn), 72×108 inches, oil on canvas, 2004, courtesy Ann Craven Studio and Macaroni, New York.
By Jill Burke
OMAA Education & Outreach at Waban & TACP
I recently completed a series of community workshops & collaborative art shows at Waban Lifeworks in Springvale and The Creative Trails, The Art Certificate Program (TACP) in Biddeford. As OMAA’s Education Coordinator I have the privilege of working with some amazing young adults with developmental uniqueness and the community organizations that serve them.
Over the course of a ten-week workshop series I was able to share stories about the lives and works of artists Dahlov Ipcar, Beverly Hallam, John Marin, Will Barnet, Marsden Hartley, and Henry Strater to name a few. We looked at their work, discussed their interests, passions, and lives, all while making connections to the participants’ own lives. We then took elements of art and design and applied them to their own artwork. Relating to what they learned, they were able to make some truly amazing artwork! It was so nice to see participants light up and get excited to work together, asking each time I walked into the room, “What are we doing today?” Lianne Lewin, Program Manager at TACP said her artists could not wait for OMAA workshop days!
The opportunity for this engagement brightened some of the dark snowy days from January through April, in the months leading up to opening day at OMAA on May 1. Participants enjoyed being involved in all aspects of hanging a show, from reviewing their portfolio to making a checklist of works to hang in their show. They also were involved in creating an invitation, preparing refreshments, and hosting an opening. The look of joy and pride on their faces when friends and family came to their art openings was priceless.
The show at TACP remains on exhibit through this Friday, May 26 during Biddeford’s Artwalk from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the North Dam Mill, Building #17, suite 215 Maine Street, Biddeford, ME.
For more information about OMAA education and outreach programs or to support this program, contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
By Jill Burke
Summer gives me a great opportunity to reflect on all we’ve accomplished during the school year through OMAA’s educational outreach program. The Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing elementary class recently came to the Museum for its last field trip of the year, with a primary focus on the just-ended Bernard Langlais exhibition. Although Langlais was their primary focus, the students enjoyed the permanent collection in the Barn Gallery, along with a Museum-wide hunt for clues. They also enjoyed the recently ended Patience E. Haley watercolor exhibition and a garden and sculpture tour.
This small but mighty class of second, third, and fourth graders produced a large body of work during my 20 visits to their classroom during the 2015-16 school year, culminating in their third annual art show, co-hosted by OMAA. We hung over 70 original works of art the kids produced and greeted 60 friends and family of the artists, along with the entire board of directors at the Baxter School.
Over the course of the year, we studied many artists from OMAA’s permanent collection: Marsden Hartley, Alexander Calder, Rockwell Kent, Beverly Hallam, Dozier Bell, Wolf Kahn, Eric Aho, Antonio Matteio, Bernard Langlais, and Walt Kuhn. We practiced color theory, managing our palates, color and mood, monochromatic themes, value and grayscale, field of vision and view finders, form, volume, and portraiture. Wow, we packed so much into this year!
I appreciate so much this unique and special group of children and their teachers. They are always polite, smart, funny and a pleasure to work with. They bring so much joy to the world. In the fall, we plan to continue our collaboration at the East End School in the Portland Public school district, where Baxter students will be mainstreamed. According to Curriculum Director John Jones, there will be two elementary classes of ten children each, as preschoolers move up and the program opens up to include not just the profoundly deaf but hard of hearing children too. In the meantime, summer school has begun so I have the pleasure of working with this great group of kids (plus some middle and high school students) some more this summer!
By Jill Burke
February, a typically grey monochromatic month in New England, was brightened for me by my weekly OMAA Art Education Outreach visits. I love working with the art groups at Waban Lifeworks in Sanford and The Art Certificate Program in Biddeford because the students are so happy to be there and appreciative of the opportunity to learn something new about a particular artist or medium. Drawing inspiration from the winter season, we delved into lessons about value and grey scale, limiting palette, and controlling mood through color choices. The student groups were inspired by Mount Katahdin, Winter, 1940, oil by Marsden Hartley and Alaskan Sunrise, 1919, oil on canvas by Rockwell Kent. Both are works in the permanent collection at the OMAA.
For our hands-on projects, we worked in chalk pastel on black and colored stock to recreate the beautiful scene of Mount Katahdin and reflect the cool winter mood. Then we worked with acrylic paint, limiting our palette and using values of only blue, black, and white to create interpretations of Rockwell Kent’s Alaskan Sunrise.
I was really pleased to see students attempt their own interpretations of these winter landscapes. To see the look of achievement on their faces was the highlight of my day!