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Dahlov Ipcar, artist and horse lover

Published: 6/6/2013
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Editor's Note:

Over her 95 years, Dahlov Ipcar has produced an immense feast of fanciful paintings and illustrations. She started young and by age 21, had her own solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She’s written scores of books and created impressive works of fabric, hooked rug, and needlepoint.

“[She] anchors one of the outer boundaries of Maine's rich and varied world of the visual arts. She nourishes the notion that Maine art is not provincial, narrow or predictable,” gallery owner and artist Tom Crotty told the New Maine Times.

For much of her life, she’s lived simply in Georgetown, Maine, choosing the coastal town over NYC, where she spent her early school years. She chose the slow lane, for sure, working a farm with her husband, Adolf, rearing two sons, raising animals and growing vegetables.

Earlier this year, Georgetown bestowed her with its Outstanding Citizen Award.

We spoke with this amazing woman at her home last month where she expounded on her affinity for horses, her work habits, and more.

Photos by Agnes Moyon

Part I:

NickerNews: How did you come to know horses?

Ipcar: When I was ten, my parents rented a pony for the summer. I had a girlfriend. We just took turns riding the pony. Nobody would give us any instruction. We just rode.

When I was 11, they decided to give me riding lessons in Central Park and that’s where I really learned to ride, to use the reins, and all that.

And then my mother bought me a horse. It was not the best saddle horse in the world. It was a good horse. It had been trained as a harness racer and I drove it in a buggy and I rode it and I drove it in a hay rake.
Whenever you turned the corner in the hayrake, there was a sound that he’d think was the beginning of the race. It’d go bang!

NickerNews: He came off a Maine track?

Ipcar: Yes. He was an unsuccessful racer. He did pretty well going down the road with me. Once there was a car following behind us and they said, “Gee, that horse can really go. He went 35 miles per hour!”
I still had the horse when I got married at 18…We had a workhorse, a great big Percheron. Adolf used to ride the workhorse and I’d ride the saddle horse…We went around. There were all kinds of abandoned houses and small roads around these woods around here.

NickerNews: You taught yourself?

Ipcar: Yes, I had basic instruction. I spent a lot of time polishing harness which nobody had ever done around this place.
My friend gave me a book, 'Advanced Equitation.' She thought we were beyond ‘Basic Equitation.’ She thought that was too low brow. But we certainly weren’t up to Advanced.

NickerNews: Did you continue to have horses as an adult?

Ipcar: We bought a pony for our kids. She was kind of a mean little thing…ponies get spoiled because nobody really rides them except children who don’t know how to control them and she’d go in the frog pond and lie down and roll with the saddle on and try to knock the kids off under branches.
…We kept a horse for the winter. He was called Hi Boy. He was like a giraffe. He had to spread his legs to eat. His legs were much longer than his neck.

NickerNews: You paint so many animals, including horses. Is that your preference?

Ipcar: I seem to draw on the connection of all animals. I can almost draw animals without thinking even. I have trouble with people.
It is fairly recently they [researchers] admitted that animals have emotions. They always said they were clockwork, you know, they went by instinct and were programmed. Which is nonsense.
All you have to do is have an animal, you know it. It has just as much brain power, not quite as much as you, but plenty in other ways.

Ipcar: [to her cat, Grendel]: What do you say baby, isn’t that true?

Read Part II

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6/6/2013 Diana G.
Thanks so much for highlighting Dahlov! I recently went to a showing of her work at the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery. I was delighted to meet her and have the opportunity to buy one of the hooked pillows of a horse from one of her past paintings. Her work is even more stunning up close and her paintings convey her genuine love of horses and all animals.

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