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Monday, August 11, 2014

Dahlov Ipcar

Full Circle, 2013, Dahlov Ipcar
Dahlov Ipcar
A week or so ago I wrote on a New England artist who lived to be ninety-two years of age. That's impressive. But then today, I came upon another New England artist, still living, born on November 12, 1917. That makes her ninety-six years of age at the moment. Given the fact that women seem to have a penchant for outliving men, it would seem likely that she will stick around a few more years until at least the centenary of her birth. Her named is Dahlov Ipcar and she knows a thing or two about longevity. Her husband, Adolph Ipcar, was her math tutor as she prepared for college. She married him at the age of nineteen. He was thirty-one. He died in 2003 at the age of ninety-eight.

Calico Jungle, Dahlov Ipcar
At ninety-six Dahlov Ipcar continues to paint daily. Her Full Circle (top) is among her more recent works. Her painting career began about 1939 with a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City--nothing like starting at the top. During the 1940s and early 50s, she dabbled in the prevailing style of Social Realism with the emphasis more on the "social" part than realism. We might even coin the term "Social Stylism" or perhaps "Social Symbolism" in describing her work and much of what she does even now. Her content tends to revolve around animals, both wild and domestic with special emphasis on sea creatures as in her Calico Jungle (left). Like her penchant for surviving the aging process, Dahlov knows a thing or two about calico as well. She likes to craft soft sculptures such as the motherly opossum seen below, dating from 2009.

The calico opossum? 2009, Dahlov Ipcar
The Little Fisherman, Dahlov Ipcar,
the first of many.
Having lived through one of the most turbulent eras in history, Ipcar's biography is a history of a century of struggle in the American art world. For a time shortly after their marriage, she and her husband lived in New York City by teaching in their areas of specialty--art and math. As might be expected, during the midst of the depression, that lasted about a year before the couple decided to try farming on property her parents owned in Maine. Today we'd call it subsistence farming, selling produce, milk and eggs, raising various farm animals and two sons. Then, in 1945, selling her paintings along with their pigs and produce, Dahlov was commissioned to illustrate a children's book, The Little Fisherman (right).

Sable Nyika, 1988, Dahlov Ipcar

Circus, 2011, Dahlov Ipcar
Since then Ipcar has gone on to write and illustrate more than thirty children's books and four fantasy novels. In the 1960s and 70s, Ipcar added murals to her repertoire completing ten large-scale mural projects for public buildings, such as Post offices, libraries, and elementary schools. Lest you think these are the delicate daubing of some little old lady with a decorative mindset, the Maine Animals mural in the Narragansett Elementary School, Gorham, 106 feet long. With works now in the permanent collections of museums such as the Metropolitan, the Whitney, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art she is also represented in the leading art museums of Maine, as well as many corporate and private collections throughout the country, one might consider the possibility of a restful retirement at the age of ninety-seven or ninety-eight, but that seems not to be a consideration at all. She's having too much fun to retire.

Blue Savannah, 1978, Dahlov Ipcar


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