I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion at Bates College Olin Arts Center in conjunction with the Dahlov Ipcar exhibit on Friday, September 6th. There I heard a trio of women present their perspectives on the notion of teaching inspired by modern art. Sara Torres Vega spoke of “Art as a Catalyst for Social Connectivity.” Together with Wendy Woon, the Deputy Director for Education and Lewiston art teacher Kate Cargile, they presented about the “Museum as Teacher” and the “Teacher as Artist” in relationship to the life and work of Dahlov Ipcar in the context of the modernist revolution in society. This lecture/discussion had personal resonance on many levels and spoke to my deep passion for the creative act of teaching.
Dahlov Ipcar was the self-taught artist and daughter of renowned American artists William and Marguerite Zorach. The Zorachs raised their children in Maine and Greenwich Village, N.Y. When she married, Dahlov settled in Georgetown Maine on land adjacent to the family’s summer home, not far from where I live. She passed away in 2017 at the age of 99. All her life she was steeped in the arts, music and visual art being primary. Her parents held her back from school, preferring to let her develop and grow more naturally, akin to what we today call “unschooling.” Dahlov’s proclivity for drawing and painting showed an early age and her parents encouraged her, providing her with space, time, materials, and plenty of enrichment. She loved nature and animals, a passion which informed her artwork from her earliest years forward.
Here is a painting her mom did of their NYC apartment. Notice Dahlov looking out the window while her brother, Tessim, plays with the family cats who are wrestling one another on the rug. Mom is looking out with her hand on dad’s shoulder as he looks down toward the keys of the piano. She is listening to the music of her family life.
And here is a collage she did in 1961, a piece that was seminal in determining the direction she was to take in her illustrations and paintings. The use of pattern, combined with natural forms and animals, are all familiar elements of her mature style.
Here is a link to a wonderful article by Torres Vega entitled “Art is on the House” that tells the story of the Zorach family in more detail. http://www.trebuchet-magazine.com/art-is-on-the-house/
From the Museum of Modern Art’s website, here is a quote from Sara Torres Vega about the first woman artist to exhibit there.
“Coincidentally, the stories I have collected refer for the most part to women. And while these women were influenced by MoMA’s education programs, it also worked the other way around; these women had an impact on MoMA as well. Take, for example, Dahlov Ipcar, the first woman (and, at the time, the youngest person) to have a solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition, curated by Victor D’Amico and Ipcar’s father, the artist William Zorach, opened in 1939 in the Young People’s Gallery. Creative Growth, Childhood to Maturity, which featured Dahlov’s work from age three to 22, was intended to illustrate that, “with proper stimulation and encouragement,” anyone could be creative.”
As an art teacher, the big takeaway from the evening at Bates is that all teachers must be creative artists. I was impressed with all the panelists, but in particular with Torres Vega and how she articulates the challenge for teachers and the role of museums in supporting creatively alive citizens. Here is a link to more of her writing on this topic. teaching as an art form, discovering stories of learning at the museum of modern art
Teaching is an art form. As teachers, we are responsible for providing an environment that offers our students (of any age) the stimulation and encouragement necessary for their innate creativity to flourish. That is no small task, but one I undertake daily with great joy and devotion.