If you set your mind to it, nothing’s too difficult in “the Little Easy” as Hallowell has come to be affectionately known. A major downtown construction project can’t stop an annual celebration or put too much of a damper on the colorful place – and state of mind – that is Hallowell.

That’s certainly the perspective of Jen Greta Cart, this year’s Old Hallowell Day artist, who says “Thinking of Hallowell brings a joyful, happy, easy feeling every day, but that’s especially embodied every year in Old Hallowell Day.”

To set the stage for her original acrylic on board painting, ‘Let’s Dance in the Little Easy,” Cart started by combining some of her favorite visual elements in Hallowell – the landmark City Hall, the street clock, the Kennebec River and even an osprey overhead. She simplified and took some artistic liberties with the composition to spotlight the impromptu performers – youthful and elderly, citizens and construction workers — adding such vibrant color and movement that you can almost hear the music.
“It’s really an impression of Hallowell,” she explains. “Those creamy yellow bricks against a beautiful blue sky; flowers in bloom; musical instruments and hard hats all mingle on a bright, breezy summer day.”

“We couldn’t have imagined a more fitting and lovely artwork for a commemorative poster design uniquely suited to this memorable 2018 Old Hallowell Day,” says OHD Chair Jane Orbeton. Limited edition OHD 2018 T shirts and souvenir buttons, featuring an image specially adapted from the original poster art, are also for sale.
Jen Greta Cart and her husband, artist and muralist Christopher Cart, moved to Hallowell 25 years ago and immediately felt welcomed into the small, colorful community. Their Victorian house on Page Street is not only their home but also serves as studio space for the two artists and, as of this summer, their newly opened cards, prints, and original art shop in the carriage house at the rear of the property.

Though she happens to be married to an acclaimed artist, Jen Greta Cart is “absolutely self-taught.  I fooled around with art in my early twenties, but was never serious. Never took a class. Then one day in my early thirties, it was like something in me caught fire. With some of Chris’ paint and brushes, I painted this picture of a woman in an arabesque on a roof.  I called it ‘Roof Tops of Page Street.’  And my second one was a tree of life, with Maine forest animals and a girl up in a tree, reading. Both of them sold immediately, which was incredibly encouraging. And I just kept on.”

Jen Cart’s artwork is now also available for purchase through her website, on eBay and at select shops including Berry & Berry in Hallowell, Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester and Lisa Marie’s in Portland and Bath.

She describes her style as “magical realism”. Most of her work has a distinctively mystical, enchanting, romantic, even dreamlike quality. The mother of two grown children (Zack, nearly 30 and Kate, 25) she feels she speaks for many women of a mature age in some of her “fiercely feminist” artwork, which includes signature mermaids and goddesses, crones and maidens– coexisting with tigers, foxes, birds and dragons by the water’s edge or in the forest.

“Raising two kids and living off artwork takes strength, as well as vision and imagination,” she reflects.

Jen Cart started painting almost exclusively in watercolor and still turns to watercolor for some projects, although she became a fan of egg tempera for small, luminous portrait work. Lately she has favored acrylics, employing a thin, dry brush technique.

Because Hallowell is “so unique and different from other small towns,” it has been the inspiration for “probably a hundred or more” of Jen Cart’s images, she says, ranging from readily recognizable entire settings to components such as a roof or a doorway, or a glimpse of nature captured in memory from an excursion on the Rail Trail or in Vaughan Woods … or her own garden.

As for Old Hallowell Day, it’s a much-anticipated event in the Cart household. “Being self-employed, Chris and I don’t take many days off,” says the 2018 artist. But on Old Hallowell Day, with her dancing shoes and her sun parasol, “I always feel young and irresponsible and carefree!” she said. The Carts enjoy watching the parade when they are not participating in it (over the years, they have reveled in taking part in prizewinning NoHa and Woodstock parade entries), and the used book sale at the library, and “spending the whole day drifting around town, seeing people and taking it all in.” This year, as the Old Hallowell Day artist, Jen Greta Cart will be at the Harlow Gallery, 100 Water Street, for OHD poster signings on Thursday July 19 at 6 pm and on Saturday, Old Hallowell Day, after the parade until noon.

Of course, for the Carts who first met at a contradance, the bandstand is their favorite place to be on Old Hallowell Day, dancing to the live music all afternoon and into the evening, in the Little Easy.

For more about the artist and her work, visit jengretacart.com or contact her at 207-607- 9513 or [email protected] Check out Jen Greta Cart on Facebook and Instagram and visit the card, print and art shop located in the carriage house at the rear of 3 Page Street in Hallowell. The shop is open whenever the OPEN flag is flying on the tree in the front yard, or by appointment.

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