BELFAST — The man just upped and quit.

One day he was taking care of the farm, and the next he didn’t show up. Or the next.

“So we took over his job,” said Dahlov Ipcar, now 96 and still living on the family farm in Georgetown.

Long before she illustrated children’s books or painted kaleidescope animal mosaics, Ipcar farmed the land. She and her late husband, Adolph, came north from New York City in the late 1930s.

They settled on her parents’ farm, idealistic and determined to make a simple life for themselves on 15 acres of Maine countryside. When the man they hired to help around the farm quit without notice, Adolph and Dahlov learned to make hay, milk cows and raise chickens.

The couple grew their own food, and Dahlov sold eggs and milk to supplement her income from the sales of her art and books. They managed a successful dairy farm and became examples for the back-to-landers who came to Maine in the 1950s and 1960s.

Like the Ipcars, the newcomers were subsistence farmers and hard-working artists, inspired by and dependent on the land to support their ambitions and lifestyles.

Farmers came, and artists followed. Both groups, often overlapping, found Maine accommodating of their desire for space and solitude. Their communities have long been linked by shared ethics of work, routine, production and taste.

The link between art and agriculture has become more deeply woven with society’s increasing focus on family farming and local food, said Anna Abaldo, who directs the Maine Farmland Trust gallery in downtown Belfast. In five years, Abaldo has sharpened that connection by showing the work of artists who celebrate agriculture.

This year, the gallery is showing paintings by Jill Hoy, photographs by Lynn Karlin and pastels by Jude Valentine, among a dozen Maine artists. It has a small Main Street storefront that doubles as headquarters of Maine Farmland Trust, which raises money to protect farmland statewide. A spiral staircase brings visitors to a small second-floor gallery, where the paintings of Philip Frey and Lou Schellenbger are on view through June 9.

People who support local farms also tend to appreciate local art, and artists view the farmer as an inspiration, Abaldo said. Artists and farmers share a love of things nurtured by hand and an interest in natural order.

“The farmers are respected for working with the land, and artists are trying to connect with their wisdom and their knowledge,” she said.

The link between the arts and agriculture in Maine dates at least to the late 1700s, when Jonathan Fisher arrived as the Congregational minister in Blue Hill. But he did more than minister.

Part of the agreement that brought Fisher to Maine included the “minister’s lot” with five acres and a barn. Fisher also bound books, dug wells and wrote for the local newspaper, and he is credited with painting the first major landscape painting in Maine, “A Morning View of Blue Hill Village, 1824.”


The artists who show their work at Maine Farmland Trust connect with nature in different ways. But layered in the works of these artists are personal stories that link them to the land.

For Hoy, it was the immaculate farms of northern California. Their neatness and orderliness impressed her.

Her father taught at colleges and universities coast to coast, moving every few years. In 1965 he bought a captain’s house on Deer Isle, and Maine became an anchor. She lives most of the year in Stonington, in a home she shared with her late husband, the painter Jon Imber, who died this spring from ALS.

Imbued with color and form, Hoy’s paintings reflect Maine’s patchwork countryside of farms, forest and rural homes.

“I’m drawn to how people sculpt their land and build their homes,” she said. “It’s reflective of who lives there. That is what I am drawn to, as a documenter of time. I am drawn to history, and what these places have been through.”

Hoy worries that Maine is losing its character as farmland is lost to development. That’s why she supports the trust’s effort to preserve farmland.

“However it happens, we have to let farms continue to be farms, for a new generation of people who are interested in sustainable farming. It is the state’s identity,” Hoy said.

Karlin came to Maine from New York in 1982, lured by the stories of back-to-land pioneers and authors Helen and Scott Nearing.

The Nearings lived at Forest Farm in Harborside, about an hour north of Belfast in the town of Brooksville.

Karlin ended up on the farm next door and befriended the couple that embodied the simple-life movement. Karlin sold vegetables and flowers and documented her life with her book, “Maine Farm: A Year of Country Life.”

She now lives in Belfast and makes photographs of flowers and vegetables that look like Dutch Masters paintings. She will show a few of her latest photos at the Maine Farmland Trust gallery June 13 to July 14.

“I’m not farming any longer, but I support farmers markets and sustainable agriculture,” she said. “Having been a farmer, I know what goes into growing the vegetables, and I feel that experience gives me more validation for the art that I am producing.”

The trust’s ties to Maine art go back to Maine painter Joseph Fiore, who supported the trust. He died in 2008 and left nearly 40 works of art to the trust. He began as an abstract painter but moved into landscapes after coming to Maine in the 1950s.

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

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Twitter: pphbkeyes

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