The Mispillion Art League in Milford is the site of the greatest show ever held of the late Julie Baxendell’s artwork, offering a retrospective this month of nearly 200 original pieces ranging from small, beautifully executed watercolor sketches to large canvases that dominate the wall. It’s an unusual show in several respects, including style, size and pricing.
Baxendell was not afraid to experiment with her art, using a variety of media, styles and color palates. Longtime friend and art patron Jennifer Bowers of Milton observes, “We’ve always seen Julie’s work in one particular show—the deep colors of her Portuguese boats, the show of local landscapes, the bright colors of Key West. I can’t wait to see it all at once, side by side.” Indeed, without her signature, one might not recognize her work from various periods as being from the same artist. The juxtaposition of an old hotel in the Catskill Mountains done in a loose sketchy style in soft yellow tones hangs across from a powerful marsh sunset in such vibrant oranges and yellows that the viewer almost needs sunglasses.
After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Baxendell had spent most of her career as a graphic designer, working long hours to support her family while longing to do fine art. Finally, at the age of 62, she started painting and she didn’t stop until shortly before her death a few months shy of 75. During that time she was quite prolific, producing hundreds of works, from tiny sketches to enormous canvases. Her favorite subject matters involved water and boats, the play of light and reflections dancing across the Delaware Bay or along the coast in Italy and Portugal.
Her passion to capture all these images also makes for an unusual exhibit in the sheer volume of work available in this show. Like other artists, she worked during her lifetime to prepare some 20 or 30 new pieces for a show. But this retrospective—spanning a 12-year period from 1996 through 2008—is some 6 to 10 times bigger than an ordinary show.
She first worked in watercolors, and experimented with water oils. She won a number of awards, and her work was accepted in nationally juried shows. In 2002, she was granted a fellowship by the Delaware Division of the Arts, a year later a residency Fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She spent a month there, experimenting with creating a new style. She found she could sketch in conté — a sort of waxy pastel – and then use transparent acrylic washes and glazes much like watercolor. It was the best of all worlds – loose and free, with bold strong colors that she had been striving for with water media, but on canvas.
Baxendell was an active member of the Rehoboth Art League for years, and honored to be invited as one of the founding member of the Artists’ Exchange, which meets monthly to share ideas and critiques of their works in progress, and to host group shows. She was also one of the founding members of the Delaware Watercolor Society. Her work had been represented locally by Peninsula Gallery and by Bishop’s Stock in Snow Hill, Md.
“The Show You’ve Been Waiting For!” at the Mispillion Art League, located in downtown Milford at 5 North Walnut St, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesdays through Sundays, and will host an opening reception on Friday the 13th from 5 to 8 p.m. The show will hang through July 28. For more information, contact the Art League at 430-7646.