A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Summer at Skowhegan

Family Art Project Manager Ilse Murdock is offsite this summer attending the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture’s intensive, nine-week summer residency program for emerging visual artists. During her absence, longtime guest artist and papermaker Randy Brozen has stepped in to lead each weekend’s Family Art project.

Now a month into the residency, I really don’t know how to put into words what I am experiencing here. There are 65 artists participating here, plus an additional 15 to 20 professional artists who make up the staff and faculty. The first week we were here we spent getting to know the facilities and one another. Then we each presented our work to the entire community. The quality of the work presented was staggering. I have never in my life been in such an intense and dynamic artistic community, where everyone is so willing to take risks with their work and to support one another through that process.

This first snapshot is of a plein air piece I did at a fresco workshop Skowhegan offered to all participants. In this case, especially in the thicker parts, I mixed the pigment with lime mortar, which is the material that makes up the wall panel itself. So when the fresco dries, the material becomes one surface. Frescos are usually wall paintings, but this one is a portable panel.

The second shot is of a painting I made of the sun setting across the lake. In the end I think the sun looks more like the moon in the painting. We live close to the lake and the dining hall is right on the shore. I often go out and make oil sketches to try and capture the constantly changing Maine light across the lake. The pallet used to make this painting is sculpted into the painting (unlike earlier works where I have inserted the pallet at the bottom of the painting) which is most apparent in the “moon” area.

There is constant community involvement through lectures, critiques, studio visits and working together in groups and collaborations. We have become so intimately involved in each other’s work that another’s triumph feels like our own. And all of this is happening in the woods in Maine, where the involvement with nature provides an additional sounding board or spark for our projects,.  We are all going through so many changes that it is difficult to know how all of this will play out in our own work, but we all are so grateful for this experience. Skowhegan is heaven for artists.

One thought on “Summer at Skowhegan

  1. Ilse, it’s so great to hear about (and see!) what you’re doing. It sounds like an amazing experience and no doubt all of the FAP family will benefit what what you are learning.
    Hope the next few weeks are as exciting and productive. We miss you!

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