Maine Farmland Trust Gallery opens 2018 with a multi-media show that recalls the summer season. Six visual artists with strong ties to Maine, a historical writing resident, and the resident gardener, share the work they created during their 2017 residency at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at MFT’s Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.
A professional jury consisting of Bevin Engman, Professor of Art at Colby College and Sam Cady, distinguished artist and teacher, selected the six visual artists for the residency program. The group spanned a large range of experience, from emerging to established artists. The 2017 visual art residents at the Fiore Art Center included: Anne Alexander, ceramic sculpture; Elizabeth Hoy, oil painting; Jessica Klier, drawing & installation; Tanja Kunz, oil painting; Joss Reny (aka Josselyn Richards Daniels), biological illustration; and Jude Valentine, monotype. The exhibit also includes an eye-catching installation of old farm tools by the historical writing resident (and archaeologist) Sarah Loftus, as well as some archival inkjet prints and poetic writing by resident gardener Nellie Sweet.
“Oftentimes, artists create work with a particular exhibit in mind, or work under extreme deadline pressure,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, MFT Gallery Curator and Co-Director at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center. “By contrast, the work in this show was created during a period of expansive time, experimentation and deep immersion in nature.” Hence, viewers may expect some less-polished works, or works that explore new territory for the artists.
“Inspiration has full breath here,” wrote artist Jude Valentine in the communal residency journal. Valentine, who is no stranger to the MFT Gallery and is known for her large pastel paintings, took a different approach during her month-long residency. She allowed herself to explore new materials to develop a unique monoprinting technique. “The small works were much more experimental,” says Valentine. “I really was in a totally different mental space; the idea of combining different media and pushing them a bit further was exciting to me.”
Elizabeth Hoy’s bold gestural paintings reference the edge where land meets sea. In her residency, Hoy departed from a previous focus of painting Superfund sites, places the Environmental Protection Agency has earmarked as contaminated, and embarked on portraying the untouched world. Fueled by the writings of conservationist Rachel Carson, Hoy went on to explore the shorelines nearby which had inspired Carson’s early research.
Tanja Kunz stayed closer to home during her time at the Fiore Art Center. Her studio looked out over a field full of wildflowers that stretched down to Damariscotta Lake. Kunz’ large oil painting, Queen Anne (Light and Shadow), is best described by the words of visiting writer Eliza Graumlich, “her artwork—botanically-referenced yet abstract […]—reads like photosynthesis distilled. Energy emanates from each canvas, as movement, illumination or both.”
Sprinkled among handmade paper, poetic journal entries, hand-spun wool, and found objects, Jessica Klier’s intimate pen drawings slow the viewer down. They invite an imaginary stroll through a private world of wonder, arousing our original and unquestioned connection with the natural world around us.
Student Joss Reny used the residency to build her portfolio of biological illustrations in a natural setting. On one of her walks, she discovered a carrion beetle on a dead snake, which then became a detailed illustration. Reny’s hand captures her surroundings — a lupine from the field; a beet pulled from the garden — with incredible precision and care.
Anne Alexander’s ceramic sculptures of seed pods and vegetable forms surprise and delight with their voluptuous nature. They illustrate the cross-pollination that happens when art and agriculture meet. Nasturtium, a ceramic sculpture of a nasturtium seed pod blown up to the size of one’s hand, wouldn’t have been created if resident gardener Nellie Sweet had not shared the amazing wasabi taste sensation of a late September nasturtium seed pod.
For more information on the 2017 artists in residence please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/resident-artists/
To apply to the Fiore Art Center’s 2018 residency program please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/
Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate agriculture through art, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on the Trust visit www.mainefarmlandtrust.org.