Stell’s ‘Kaleidoscope of Color’

Jun 15, 2014
“Girl with flowers” is a serigraph by Stell, an artist still creating new work in Camden at age 99.

Rockland — Stell Shevis was born to create art. Still painting at 99 years of age, Stell — as she is called, because her late husband was called Shevis — will open a new show Sunday, June 22, at the Sanctuary Gallery of Rockland Congregational Church, 180 Limerock St. Refreshments will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. offering everyone the opportunity to visit with this well-known Maine artist. The exhibit will run through the end of July.

Stell's connection to Maine began in 1945 when she and Shevis shed their commercial life in New York City to “live off the land” in rural Maine. Their first house and 12 acres of land was purchased in Belmont for $1800. They farmed the land for vegetables, raised goats for milk and kept chickens and pigs to balance their diet. They soon set up a workshop in their barn for silkscreening and block printing and thus was born The Cowstall Press. Their prints sold all over the country through the Greta von Nessen Gallery and Showroom on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Reaching out to aspiring artists, they collaborated with fellow artists in 1950 to establish the Haystack School of Crafts, where the couple taught graphics and block printing for five years. Stell constantly expanded her artistic expression through wool rug making, linen wall hangings, watercolors and her now-famous woodblock notecards.

In 1964, a devastating fire destroyed their home, the barn studio and 20 years worth of irreplaceable art work. Faced with nothing from the past, they began anew in Camden. With the help of a bank, Shell and Stevis purchased what is now the Blackberry Inn on Elm Street. They opened a small shop and gallery on the ground floor where they sold serigraph prints, as well as fine crafts from artist friends along the East coast. Her rugs and paintings, his wooden art constructions and their prints have hung in the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Institute and the Smithsonian.

In the mid-1990s, Stell inherited all the equipment and colored powders needed to enamel. She quickly mastered three different enameling techniques for making beautiful jewelry, landscapes and portraits and three-dimensional enameled animals. Her enamel work has been featured in international shows and has been seen at the San Diego Museum as well as the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.

After writing many, many anecdotes of her life with Shevis in the world of art, Stell was chosen by the StoryCorps in May to record these stories for posterity and the recordings are housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Sanctuary Gallery is open Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m.; Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; or by special arrangement by calling 596-0093.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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