MFT Gallery spins ‘Cow Tales’
Belfast — It takes a brave artist to paint cows in Maine. It takes a brave farmer to milk them. “Cow Tales,” opening with a 5:30 to 8 p.m. reception Friday, Aug. 22, at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, will address both these statements. The gallery also will be open in to the evening for Belfast’s Final Friday Art Walks Aug. 29 and Sept. 26.
The first statement has to do with how cow paintings may be perceived in the greater world of art. Plenty of artists attempt to paint cows; few escape the judgment of being cliché. To paint a cow and wow viewers is no small feat. The second statement relates to the state of the dairy industry in Maine. Maine farms are perfectly suited to raise healthy cows and produce delicious milk, but the federal milk pricing system makes it very difficult for farmers to cover the cost of production.
“Cow Tales” combines the pared-down modernist cow paintings of Frances Hynes and the plucked-from-the-pasture, plein air paintings by Sharon Yates with recent statistics on the dairy industry in Maine. Several original drawings and watercolors by Dahlov Ipcar, from the 1940s and ‘50s, also are included. These three artists have more in common than the obvious subject matter of their art. Each one has been putting her brush to the canvas for many decades and can boast an impressive resume of both gallery and museum shows.
Hynes, who divides her time between Maine and New York, is perhaps better known for her abstract work. Her minimalist cows, however, are noteworthy creations from her earlier figurative period. Some of these works use a window motif that became the familiar grid pattern underlying many of Hynes’ later paintings.
Yates, who hails from Washington County, knows her cattle. Years ago, she moved from painting scenic coastal motifs to the study of cows because she was struck by their angular forms moving in the changing light and weather. Yates thrives on the unexpected and so do her paintings, small oils created with a sculptural hand.
Ipcar needs no introduction, an illustrator of more than 30 children’s books still painting in her nineties who is one of Maine’s Masters. She was awarded the Farnsworth Art Museum’s Maine in America award in 2012 for her outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art. In 2013, Maine College of Art awarded Ipcar the Award for Leadership as a Visual Artist and the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.
Additional works by the featured artists, with farm-related subject matter beyond cows, are shown on the gallery’s second floor, as well as several cow paintings by other gallery artists. Among these is a small watercolor of grazing cattle by the late Joseph Fiore (1925-2008), donated to MFT to raise funds for farmland preservation.
“Cow Tales” will run through Sept. 29. Regular hours of MFT Gallery, located at 97 Main St., are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For extra summer hours on Friday evening and Saturdays, visit mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide nonprofit organization working to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on MFT, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.
Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or firstname.lastname@example.org.