Osher Lifelong Learning Institute features local artists

by Rebecca Flowers | 8/18/17 2:00am

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Dartmouth held a reception celebrating their newest art exhibit, “The Outsiders,” on July 6. The offices of the Institute were flooded with over 200 people, from children to retirees, to meet the artists: Anne Hartmann, Judith Pettingell and Ann Semprebon.

The Institute is a lifelong learning program affiliated with the College that sponsors classes and art exhibits for its members. There are currently 80 courses offered in the upcoming fall term, including a course on national parks and another on quantum creativity. Program assistant at the Institute, Laura Belback, said that the fall term is the busiest. Many courses are taught by retired Dartmouth professors, and the target demographic is mainly individuals aged 55 and older, but classes do sometimes include Dartmouth student, faculty and staff, as well as high school and home-schooled students.

The Institute also sponsors exhibits that rotate every few months, usually created by local artists. Previous exhibits have ranged in media from fiber arts to photography, Belback said.

For the summer term, the exhibit curatorreached out to Hartmann and Pettingell, who are members of the Institute, and Semprebon, who is one of the Institute’s “study leaders,” or teachers, to collaborate on an exhibit. Previously, Semprebon has taught courses on colors and the garden.

“We all like to paint out of doors,” Hartmann said, a common theme among their work.

Semprebon suggested “The Outsiders,” as a title for their exhibit.

“[The title] implies out-of-doors, but it also implies maybe you do something a little different from somebody else, so it had a double meaning,” Hartmann said.

The artists had only previously met each other in passing, so when the Institute initially reached out to them, it was a somewhat “artificial grouping,” Pettingell said.

“It turned out well because our works are very different,” she said.

Semprebon has been drawing since she was young and believes she inherited her interest in art from her father, who was a commercial artist. Her inspiration for her pieces in the exhibit came from her fascination with specific colors and shapes, and moving her pieces “a little beyond realism,” she said.

Semprebon said she was previously more of a realist, but experimenting with colors has interested her recently. She also loves the use of watercolors as a medium for painting flowers, because flowers are very fragile, and watercolor is “a more fragile media than oil or acrylics,” she said.

Pettingell has loved art for the majority of her life, which led to her majoring in art at Skidmore College. After graduating, she taught art education for several years, then worked as a consultant developing information systems before returning to teach art education. Although Pettinghell had been working with art, she had not put brush to paper in 50 years until she took a class with the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen. She has now been painting for nine years under the tutelage of an award-winning painter and has exhibited several times in local galleries.

“Often, I feel like a newbie,” she said.

Pettingell’s inspiration behind her paintings partially come from her trip to Ireland last fall.

“We had this amazing view [from our home], and we also went to a historical monument owned by the national hero who was the first person in the 1800s to talk about an independent Ireland,” Pettingell said. “It was very rugged, there were a lot of sheep around because [the country] is so poor the government pays people there to raise sheep.”

This inspired seven of the total of 12 paintings Pettingell is exhibiting at the show. The other paintings were inspired by various areas around Hanover.

“They’re all local paintings of local things,” Pettingell said.

Hartmann has been interested in art for a long time, but with a busy home life and four children, she has only been able to fully pursue her love for watercolors in the past few years. Hartmann finds watercolor challenging, yet “it can be very fresh and very surprising.” Most of the nine pieces she contributed are painted in watercolor. One of her favorite pieces in the exhibit is called “Fish Shack,” and it depicts a shack on the rocky Maine coast with lobster-men’s nets. This painting is one of several that have been sold.

Artists usually put their work up for sale in this space, and, while they handle the transactions themselves, 10 percent of the proceeds are contributed to the Institute. Hartmann said that this is very fair, even generous, because many other places take a larger portion of the proceeds.

It has been meaningful for all of the artists to pursue art in their later years when they had spent much of their life pursuing other things.

“I was really afraid that I would have nothing to do when I retired, [but] I think my life is really rich,” Pettingell said. “When people get older, it doesn’t mean they can’t find something alternate from what they were doing before.”

Overall, the artists wanted to have an emotional effect on the viewers.

“I think what most artists are striving for, and I would also be in this category, is not just painting a picture but kind of conveying a feeling,” Hartmann said.

The exhibit has been visited through the months from a variety of demographics, said Belback, and will end on August 24.