The history of farming in Maine is rich, bountiful, creative, and diverse, as is the…
Belfast. Machias watercolorist Margaret LaFarge has lived in Maine since 1980. Her intimate paintings transport us across time and space, into the rooms of farmhouses with which LaFarge has a special connection. “These are primarily homes I have lived in,” she points out. “And so my paintings revolve around family, memories and history.”
The farmhouse interiors depicted in paintings such as “Horse Hair Chair” and “1800 Farm House” hail from New England villages that once had a vibrant farming community. “But a lot of farming has disappeared here,” said LaFarge. “It’s so sad to see old farmhouses fall apart. I am fortunate that my family has always maintained them.”
An old box of photos took painter Tessa O’Brien on a trip down memory lane, to a time in her childhood when her parents and their friends built a timber frame together. “Everyone stayed and camped out with their babies and dogs. I just love those images, and the memories they conjure up,” said O’Brien.
In her bold, colorful paintings, the timber frame itself became a symbol for community, sustainability and craftsmanship. “I was pursuing my MFA at the time,” O’Brien explained. “And visually, I loved the structure of the timber frame as an image in its own right. I’m primarily interested in paint – the possibilities of it, the textural quality – but I need an organizing principle to direct my work.”
What followed was much like a community engagement project. “I started hunting down timber frames in Maine, and ended up meeting the people building them, and hearing their stories,” O’Brien shared. “I love the stories that go along with the buildings, and the way these structures interact with the land.”
The Portland painter recognized that the subject matter of farm houses runs the risk of being nostalgic. “While I started from a place of nostalgia that is not what I want to communicate. I want to show the present-day possibilities, which are very alive in Maine, and ask what these traditions can bring us now.”
With The Inside View, Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is aiming to show a variety of interior views of farms: old and new; still used for farming or transformed into an artist’s space; the family’s kitchen table versus the cow’s barn. The group show includes oil paintings, acrylics, mixed media, drawings and photography by artists Julie Cyr, Kerstin Engman, Leslie Harris, DiTa Ondek, Susan Smith, Sarah Szwajkos, and afore-mentioned Margaret LaFarge and Tessa O’Brien.
The Inside View will be on exhibit from April 3rd through June 23rd. There will be artist talks at 5:00pm on Friday May 26, followed by a reception as part of the Belfast Art Walk from 5:30-8:00pm.
MFT Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. On Fourth Friday Art Walks, the gallery is open until 8pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/gallery/ .
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