While their friends cozied up to woodstoves with cocoa and businesses throughout town closed due to record-breaking cold temperatures, nine intrepid young artists gathered in the warmth of a collaborative studio space in Page Gallery at 23 Bay View Street in Camden. Each February the gallery gives its walls over to the children of the community for its Youth Art Exhibition. This year’s prompt is to create a piece of art depicting the animals you love best.
Prominently displayed on a wall of its own, the mural is a featured work in the show. After shedding coats, hats and mittens and claiming a spot around one of two long work tables filled with panels, palettes, brushes, paints and a variety of collage materials, the gallery’s owner, Colin Page, provided an overview on the artist and work selected this year. The children would recreate a piece from one of Maine’s best known and most loved artists, Dahlov Ipcar (1917-2017). Born into a family of artists, Dahlov’s home was filled with creativity and her imagination encouraged. Her love of animals inspired the decorative patterns and geometric designs that would become her artistic signature. Colin explained that each child would work on a section of Dahlov’s painting from her book Bright Barnyard, a colorful scene of chickens, roosters, guinea hens, chicks and geese first published in 1966. Once complete, their individual efforts would be hung together to reveal the full painting. “Copying artists is a great way to learn, gather ideas and inspiration, practice skills and create something new,” said Colin.
Undaunted by the blank panels before them, the artists set to work, squeezing paint onto palettes, mixing colors and selecting brushes. Gallery staff took on the role of studio assistants, helping to clean brushes, refresh water glasses and track down beans, yarn and pasta for mixed media needs. Gallery manager, Kirsten Surbey, read Ipcar’s Bright Barnyard aloud while the children painted. The atmosphere was relaxed, cooperative and fun. The children, ranging in age from 8 to 13 years old, enjoyed working alongside their peers and took breaks to look at each other’s paintings and get ideas.
Text accompanying the exhibit, encourages visitors to explore The Farnsworth Art Museum in neighboring Rockland to see Dahlov’s 1965 Jungle Pool painting in person. “Dahlov is a national treasure, and she believed that children should be free to express themselves artistically with any materials they might find, and in ways that might be different. She used her powers of observation and pleasure in art-making to draw us into the possibilities of our imagination. The Farnsworth invites children and their adults to explore Dahlov’s Jungle Pool and the creations of many artists living and working in Maine today during our 75th Anniversary Year,” said Jane Bianco, Farnsworth curator.
The Youth Art Exhibition will be on display through February 28th. Gallery visitors are invited to participate in activities stationed throughout the exhibition including, community painting, weaving, puppet making and paper cutting activities. In collaboration with the Camden Public Library, the children’s librarian will convene a special Saturday story time in the gallery on February 25th from 1:00 to 2:00 pm and will host a Creative Art Afternoon in the gallery from 4:00 to 5:00 pm on Thursday, February 23rd. These programs are free and open to the public.