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Belfast. Take farmland, and just add water. All gallery curator Anna Witholt Abaldo knew was that Maine Farmland Trust’s new CEO would be writing a feature article for the 2017 edition of the Trust’s coveted journal, titled Land and Sea, about the interconnectedness of Maine’s land and sea-based food systems.
Rather than echoing the in-depth treatment of Maine’s food systems in CEO Amanda Beal’s essay, MFT Gallery’s Land and Sea exhibit aims to be a light-hearted riffing-off of the journal article’s theme. Having traditionally shown work that reflects some aspect of farming in Maine, in this exhibit the gallery includes work which celebrates Maine’s coastal landscape and fishing culture.
The eclectic group show welcomes visitors with a giant black and white woodblock print by Julie Crane, showing Rockport harbor above and below sea level. Crane printed the woodcut at Pickwick Press in Portland, Maine – with the assistance of three other people.
On the opposite wall, Lou Schellenberg’s oil paintings render the light, the skies and coastal landscapes of Maine and Nova Scotia, dazzling with bold, confident brush strokes. “The larger one, What We Leave is very influenced by Marsden Hartley’s landscapes,” says Schellenberg. “I’ve been carrying his paintings in my head my whole life! The title is a reference to community change, islands and so on.” Schellenberg was chosen to be MFT Gallery’s poster artist for 2017.
Abstract paintings by Belfast’s own Kathryn Shagas (Dandelion, and Native Plants) hang side by side with photographs by Terry Hire – also non-objective in nature, yet taken from very real subjects: in this case, boats in dry dock, and an old chicken barn on Rt. 3.
Painters Robin Rier and Bjorn Runquist offer some wonderful plein-air style views of boats, wharfs and factories in Maine’s fishing villages. In contrast, to remind us of MFT Gallery’s root in farming, Sharon Yates offers us her keenly studied, understated cows; Leslie Bowman, a single, masterfully painted ear of corn. And Jude Valentine once again hits the mark with her pastel landscapes, which are always subtle, yet full of color and lively gestures.
Maryjean Viano Crowe takes a different approach entirely. Her complex paper cutting of almost five feet tall reads like an ancient myth. The artist states: “True to my fashion of working with the 16th-century German art form Scherenschnitt, my piece is an elaborate paper cut, polychromed with offset and registered stencils. Entitled Between Sky & Sea: Ancestral Spirits, it explores a mythological realm inspired by Native American stories. I believe it shows my reverence for the land, and an abiding belief in the beauty, magic and mystery of Mother Earth, whom we are charged to protect and respect, now, more than ever.”
MFT Gallery’s roster of much-loved figurative painters such as Leslie Anderson, Julie Cyr, Leslie Harris, Sheep Jones, Christopher O’Connor and Amy Peters Wood round out this fabulous collection of new work, alongside new appearances by Dale Hueppchen (giclee prints), Heléna Melone (paintings on silk) and Jim Nyce (photography).
Land and Sea: Summer Stable Show 2017 runs from July 3 until September 15th. There will be artist talks by Julie Crane, Maryjean Viano Crowe, Terry Hire and Lou Schellenberg at 5pm on July 28th, followed by a public reception and the Belfast Fourth Friday Art Walk from 5:30-8pm. There will be another Art Walk on August 25th, from 5:30-8pm.
MFT 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