ghosts of the quarrymen: an interview with iver lofving
When you get off of the ferry that takes you from Bass Harbor to Swan’s Island one of the first things you’ll notice are signs in the road pointing the direction to Iver’s Studio, a beautiful wood-shingled studio tucked up in the pines and moss and built by Iver himself. Iver Lofving is an artist who divides his time between Skowhegan, where he teaches art, and Swan’s Island, where he has family roots that go back over 100 years. The walls over Iver’s studio are covered with woodblock prints depicting island life and history, silk-screened t-shirts, and paintings and drawings that find their inspiration in the time he spent living in South America. The studio is an amazing spot, and if you ever find yourself spending time on Swan’s Island it’s a destination that’s not to be missed. I feel myself lucky to have gotten a chance know Iver during my time on Swan’s Island, and to have gotten a chance to interview him about his work.
Trane: Can you tell me something about your history as an artist? You have an amazing series of paintings and lithographs that you did based on your time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, and then it seems you’ve moved primarily to making woodblock prints and silkscreen designs for printing shirts. What determines your attraction to a particular medium, and do you find that there’s a relationship between the subject matter that you work with and the materials that you choose to use for any individual piece?
Iver: I have been doing the prints for the last 20 years. I suppose you find a thing that works and you work it. I have been doing my art studio for about the same amount of time I have been teaching. I have the summers off and have been doing a print or two about Swan’s Island and my life there and selling them. I think I am attracted to media that work for me. I think there is a connection between the medium and the message. For example I use basswood for my woodblocks. They are cut out of the local forest, and some even came out of my woodlot. The material is local and the themes are local.
Iver: I have been going to Swan’s Island since the 60’s. My family has been going there since the 1880’s, so it’s the place where everyone in my family goes. I love the place now, but when I started going there again in the 80’s I had a small motorboat with a chart and a flashlight so I could leave at any time. I am there because I have roots there, of a sort. I really feel disconnected to the rest of the world, so it gives me a place where I feel a little more at home. It’s a beautiful place also, so that helps. I do artwork that’s about whatever I am interested in. Last summer I got really into the granite quarrying industry, so I did a print entitled The Quarrymen. We visited Black Island and I read a Ruth Moore book about the island, so I was thinking about all the people who used to live there and the fact that the only clues to their existence are the stones they quarried.
Iver: I think a painting I did when I turned 40 of the Sneppa is one of the ones that means a lot to me. They all are very important to me. I have a lot of paintings that I did of Central America. I had to paint it out of my brain, so when I came back I did a lot of prints and paintings of that region, and my time there.
Trane: Are there any new pieces that you’re working on now, or have lined up to work on in the future? Are there any longstanding ideas you’ve had for pieces that you have yet to execute?
Iver: I am thinking about my 20 years spent teaching. I may do something about that. I have done a lot of prints and paintings about things like 9/11 and peak oil. They aren’t big sellers, but they help me to work things out in my mind. I really don’t know exactly what I am going to work on, but I can feel something percolating in the back of my mind.
Iver: I think us artists are living in a different world than most of the society. I have found my way through the world thus far on a path that is both conventional and very different from most of the people I have met. I think that being an artist is both a curse and a blessing.
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Tags: interview, island living, Iver Lofving, Iver's Studio, Maine artists, Swan's Island, woodblock prints