OGUNQUIT — Michael Mansfield began his job at the Oguqnuit Museum of American Art a little too late to get to know Dahlov Ipcar. The museum’s new director arrived in Ogunquit on Feb. 1, and Ipcar, a matriarch of Maine art and a direct link to America’s modern art movement, died at age 99 on Feb. 11. Between the winter weather and the responsibilities of a new job, Mansfield didn’t have time to visit with Ipcar at her Georgetown home before her death.

Instead of developing a friendship with the Maine artist, Mansfield inherited her legacy in the museum’s season-opening exhibition, “Dahlov Ipcar: Creative Growth.” It’s the first exhibition since her death and also the first of several that will focus on specific aspects of Ipcar’s long career.

“Celeste in Kitchen,” poster paint, 24 by 38 inches. The painting and the sculpture at right were created by Dahlov Ipcar in 1930, when she was 13 years old. Both works were featured in Ipcar’s first solo show, in 1939 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“We’re very sad that Dahlov couldn’t see this show, but we couldn’t be more honored to put it on view,” Mansfield said.

“Creative Growth” at Ogunquit is a re-staging of Ipcar’s first solo exhibition in 1939 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, when Ipcar was 21. It includes work in a variety of media, including small terra cotta sculptures and figurines, crayon drawings that she did as young as age 3, large World War I murals inspired by the book and movie “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and paintings and drawings that demonstrate her sympathy with America’s working class and her lifelong interest in animals.

In later years, Ipcar was known for wildly colorful paintings of farm animals and exotic creatures. Her career spanned many styles and expressions, and began at a very young age. This exhibition focuses on her development from toddler to young adult. Ipcar was born in 1917, the daughter of modernist artists William and Marguerite Zorach, and she was given every opportunity to express herself and encouraged at every turn, said Andres Verzosa, the museum’s former interim director, who curated the exhibition. He interviewed Ipcar as part of his research for the exhibition.

“Prancing Horse,” 1930, ceramic, 7 by 6 by 3 inches. Photos courtesy of Ogunquit Museum of American Art

“She came from a very progressive home and was raised in an environment where topics like the war and the labor movement were discussed at the dinner table,” Verzosa said. “These are not introspective little works. When I was a kid, you would do these nice little drawings that were very tight. These are big, and she is looking at the larger world. Her parents are big, modern American artists, and she is going to museums, she is seeing art and she is in the cultural capital of the world.”

The show reveals that Ipcar’s interest in animals went all the way back to her childhood, when she began making pictures of bunny rabbits. As she got a older, her pictures became more fanciful and bolder, with fantastical animals that only existed in her imagination.

The Portland Museum of Art showed some of this work in the 1970s, but it’s the first time the terra cotta sculptures have been shown since the MoMA exhibition, said Ipcar’s son, Charlie. He discovered them while rummaging through a storage building on the Georgetown farm last year, when he also found murals illustrating American folk songs that his mother created decades ago.

Dahlov Ipcar’s “Cats and Fish Cart,” 1928, poster paint, 19 by 28 inches. Photo courtesy of Ogunquit Museum of American Art

A folk musician, Charlie Ipcar staged a concert based on songs depicted on the mural. He and his musical partners will stage the concert again June 4 at the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, just down the road from the museum.

As far as Charlie Ipcar knows, his mother did none of the work in the Ogunquit show in Maine, which makes it noteworthy. Once she settled in Maine in 1937, she did all of her work at her home and studio in Georgetown.

“Cafeteria,” 1933, pastel, 35 by 24 inches.

“Creative Growth” represents the art she made as a student growing up in New York City. Until she was 16, Ipcar made most of her art at school, her son said. “She may have done some sketches at home and in Maine during the summer, but I can’t pin any down. Some of the work in the show, the large pastels, were done in her studio at Oberlin College during her year of residency there.”

She had access to a kiln at City & Country School in New York, and never used one again.

Charlie Ipcar said his mother worked closely with Verzosa in selecting the art for this exhibition. The Ogunquit show includes about 90 pieces. The original MoMA show was much larger. Ipcar never saw the show in New York. She and her husband, Adolph, moved to her family farm in Georgetown in 1937, and the couple was busy with family and farm obligations. She couldn’t get away.

“She was really looking forward to seeing and discussing it with people” in Ogunquit, Charlie Ipcar said. “She was very happy this work was going on view again.”

Mansfield, 43, comes to Ogunquit from Washington, D.C., where he worked as a curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and specialized in film and new media. His goal this year is to immerse himself into the museum and the community, getting to know the collection while finding different ways to interpret it.

“Two Horses on the Hill,” 1930, poster paint, 17.5 by 24.25 inches

He has a bachelor’s degree in photography and art history from the University of Houston and a master’s in digital and electronic media from the Maryland Institute. He worked at the National Museum of Photography in the Czech Republic and in 2008 joined the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The framework for the season’s exhibitions at Ogunquit was in place before he got here, affording Mansfield an opportunity to get to know the museum’s collection and key figures in Maine art first hand. In addition to Ipcar, the Ogunquit season includes exhibitions about John Marin and Will Barnet and a fascinating look at the relationship between museum founder Henry Strater and the writer Ernest Hemingway. Kentucky-born, Strater was among the “lost generation” of American artists across disciplines who went to Europe after World War I. He befriended Hemingway, and the two collaborated around an interest in sport, social activism and beauty.

“Cockfight,” 1927, poster paint, 19 by 24.75 inches

“We have an ambitious exhibition schedule with a large number of shows and a lot of quick turn-arounds,” Mansfield said. “We’re showing some major figures of 20th century American art and a lot of contemporary artists who are doing interesting and important work today.”

Mansfield spent the three months between his arrival and the museum’s May 1 opening overseeing an update of the galleries, which involved repairing the walls, painting trim and ceiling and changing gallery wall colors.

Mansfield’s specialty is photography, and his influence is evident in a richly rewarding display of black-and-white photographs of the salt piles on the Portsmouth waterfront by New Hampshire photographer Carl Austin Hyatt. Hyatt has been taking pictures of the salt piles for nearly 30 years, using a large-format camera and working in all seasons. The large prints captivate with their detail, and Mansfield’s installation adds drama. One wall includes five, 5-foot-wide prints.

Mansfield dedicates another gallery to rotating monthly exhibitions by contemporary Maine artists. First up is painter James Linehan and his paintings from Schoodic. He’ll be followed by Gail Spaien, Dozier Bell, Anna Hepler and Alison Rector.

Outside, there’s an exhibition of sculpture by contemporary Maine sculptor Gary Haven Smith, and the museum will honor the late Maine sculptor Cabot Lyford with a fall exhibition.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Dahlov Ipcar: “Creative Growth”

WHERE: Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 543 Shore Road

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; Through June 28

HOW MUCH: $10 adults, $9 students and seniors, free 12 and younger

MORE INFO: 646-4909, ogunquitmuseum.org

IPCAR CONCERT: Dahlov Ipcar’s son, Charlie Ipcar, and several musical friends will perform a concert of his mother’s favorite folk songs, inspired by her “Mural of American Songs,” at 7 p.m. June 4 at the Barn Gallery, 1 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit. The second half of the concert will feature’s Ipcar’s sea-shanty band Roll & Go and a selection of songs from the sea. Admission is $10.

ON VIEW THIS SEASON: “Salt/Sea/Stone: The Photographs of Carl Austin Hyatt,” through June 28; “Tradition and Excellent: Art and Ogunquit, 1914-1918,” through Oct. 31; “Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater,” through Oct. 31; Gary Haven Smith, though Oct. 31; “James Linehan: Schoodic,” through May 29; “Gail Spaien: Serenade,” June 1-28; “John Marin: On the Verge of Wilderness,” July 1 to Aug. 29; “Will Barnet: Family Homage,” July 1-Aug. 29; “Dozier Bell: Land, Sea and Sky,” July 1-29; Anna Hepler, Aug. 1-29; “Cabot Lyford: Truth of Material,” Sept. 1 to Oct. 31; Steve Hawley, Sept. 1-Oct. 31; “Alison Rector: The Value of Thought,” Sept. 1-28

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes