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Kris Engman Studio

Artist Statement

“Until recently, the still-life and landscape paintings have been about color behavior, compositional structure and the simple arrangement of information. I hope to establish a delicate aesthetic, which is perhaps hard to recognize as the role of the subject is understated. Often, with the help of drawings and a computer, abstractions of color are manipulated until a certain light condition is struck and a sense of territory is explained. The innovations vary from brilliant to dull, depending on how observation interacts with memory.

While these concerns remain central to the scheme of the current work, the FEORM ( the farm series ) paintings of 2012/13 are more narrative and about our deeper roots and relationships with animals and farms; a focus that was instigated by the proactive, local food movement within my community. Maine has a history of dairy farming, so cows grazing in pastures are common enough everywhere. That was a connecting point from landscape to farm.

In 2012, I spent seven months ( basically a growing season ) making frequent visits to a pig farm near my home. Farm life became fascinating as both creature and farmer live and work for the rest of us. Farmers go from sunup well into the evening, as long as there is enough daylight. The rhythms on a farm are hour by hour, task by task, animal and farmer in a marriage of short duration, one season. It’s sweaty, smelly and very physical work – breeding, butchering, building, planting and harvesting, under a hot sun, back-breaking. So interesting to see from the sidelines.

Although the commercial milk market in Maine has been politicized by large agribusiness interests and many family-run dairy farms have disappeared, organic farming on a small scale has revitalized practices in the past decade and brought incredible produce to the marketplace and influence to the consumer. Where I live, farmers’ markets can compete with large supermarkets from June to October.

In 2011, I began painting still-lifes of vegetables that come from local gardens, sold in big wire baskets and wooden crates, out of the backs of the vans and trucks that convene in the center of town on Friday mornings. In September, the county agricultural fair, a long-celibrated tradition in America, gives bragging rights to the growers of the biggest turnip, the reddest tomato, the strongest oxen. More paintings.

Being around farms and centering my work around things rural is a daily reminder and stabilizer. In a world that feels complicated and often insecure, a simple view of cows waiting at the gate to come in for the evening milking, or nudging a hen off her nest to claim an egg, somehow anchors one’s perspective of events in an important, direct way.

I was born in New England, educated at the Maine College of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Pennsylvania. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe and taught in the Hungarian Public Schools. In 1997, I founded Project Kalocsa, a cultural exchange between Kalocsa, Hungary and my hometown of Belfast, Maine.

I’ve lectured and taught at various colleges throughout the Northeast and live in midcoast Maine where I teach in the Art Department at the University of Maine in Orono.”