‘A Summer on the Land’ at MFT Gallery

Jan 31, 2018
Jude Valentine’s “Rolling Acres #16” is a monoprint with pastel.

Belfast — Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, 97 Main St., has opened 2018 with a multimedia 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.

The professional jury 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 and 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,” said 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, she said. As a result, viewers may expect some less-polished works, or works that explore new territory for the artists.

“Inspiration has full breath here,” wrote 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 explored new materials to develop a unique monoprinting technique.

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, she went on to explore the shorelines nearby, which inspired Carson’s early research.

Kunz stayed closer to home during her time at the Fiore Art Center, documenting the field full of wildflowers that stretched down to Damariscotta Lake from right outside her studio.

Sprinkled among handmade paper, poetic journal entries, handspun wool and found objects, Klier’s intimate pen drawings invite an imaginary stroll through a private world of wonder.

Student 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.

Alexander’s ceramic sculptures of seedpods and vegetable forms illustrate the cross-pollination that happens when art and agriculture meet. A sculpture of a nasturtium seedpod blown up to the size of one’s hand would not have been created, had resident gardener Sweet not shared the amazing wasabi-like taste sensation of a late September nasturtium seedpod.

For more information on the 2017 artists in residence, and to apply for the 2018 residency program, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org. The downtown Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information can be found at mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance farming. MFT created its gallery to celebrate agriculture through art, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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