Litchfield Art Show Offers an Amazing Array of Creations

August 19, 2016


by Len Lathrop

When it is August and you are competing with many other events in southern New Hampshire for people’s time and interest, it is quite an accomplishment to fill the parking lot at Griffin Memorial School.  While you could walk around the art display on Aug. 13 without difficulty there were a lot of people there.  Some may have come to see the first public viewing of the original oil painting, “The Cliffs at Canyon Junction” by Litchfield-born master artist Louisa McElwain or to check out the recently restored Litchfield’s Naumkeag Grange Hall Theater Curtain by the Litchfield Historical Society.

But maybe many of the attendees stopped by to see the myriad of works from 30 other talented artists.  The variety of creations did not disappoint.  Diverse works on display were watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings, drawings, children’s books, photography, mixed media, period clothing, hand-hooked rugs, pottery and handmade cards.

Of course, a highlight of the art show, sponsored by the Litchfield New Hampshire Historical Society, had to be the Louisa McElwain painting, “The Cliffs at Canyon Junction,” which provided an example of the artist’s impasto style.  The artist grew up in Litchfield on Brickyard Farm, which was owned and worked by her parents.  As a young adult, she moved to the Southwest and became renowned for her thickly impasted landscapes.  She dubbed herself as an “extreme painter” and “one with the environment.”  She lived life fully with zest as a humanitarian, a self-sufficient gardener and a ranch woman before she passed away in 2013 at age 59.  She was recognized internationally as a master painter.  As for Louisa’s father, William McElwain, he put the family farm in perpetual trust to be used only for organic farming.  The Normanton Organic Farm in Litchfield currently works this land and benefits from the generous gift given by the McElwain family.

Another item of interest that captivated the art show attendees was the Naumkeag Grange Hall Theater Curtain.  This large canvas drape was adorned with an original oil painting that depicted Chief Passaconaway astride his white horse with a spear in hand.  Over the years, the theater curtain was rolled up and down during production in the Grange Hall in the mid-20th century in Litchfield.  Minstrel shows were held regularly, as well as public speaking contests and plays.  Sadly, the Naumkeag Grange Hall was burned down in 1980, and it was widely assumed that the curtain was gone.  Just a few years ago, Dr. Steven Calawa, president of the Litchfield Historical Society, discovered the curtain in a local barn.  With the help of restoration experts from Curtains Without Borders in Vermont and volunteers from Litchfield, the curtain was brought back to life.

Besides the two historical highlights, many other artists, displaying a wide range of works, were featured at the Litchfield art show:  Gail Barringer, Alyssa Bean, Midge Bean, Robin Bean, Michael Bergeron, Ansley Buxton, Janet Clingerman-Hsiao, Jack Curtain, Howard Denton, Michelle Fontaine, Matt Gendron, Christina Green, Susan Hanna, Ku-Chuang Hsiao, Kristen and Katelyn Jensen, Joan Kendall, John Kendall, Eunice Mason Lalmond, Pam Lane, Liz Larson, Tony Lemire, Judy McLean, Heidi Miller, Karen Newman, Kate O’Dell, Samantha Radclliffe, Franklin Ramsey, Jeanne Roberts, Maureen Sherwin and Emma Sourdif.