Category Archives: Joseph A. Fiore Art Center

A Glimpse of August’s Open Studio Day at the Fiore Art Center

The second Open Studio Day, showcasing the work of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center August artists-in-residences, took place on August 26th. It was another beautiful summer day with many guests from near and far. Music was performed by Sara Trunzo, a former MFT staffer!

Michel Droge, an abstract painter whose work reflects a poetic connection to the land, climate change research and the philosophy of the sublime, discussed how she begins each painting with an ancient method utilizing navigational stick charts. Before taking to sea, people would form these charts, which are derived from the currents, to interpret the water before a journey.

Estafani Mercedes is an activist artist with deep connections to Maine. She has been interested in local Brooksville archives that connect to the Argentine dictatorship. Through radical justice, film photography and copyright law, she continued her work to restore missing violent histories and silenced voices in a publicly accessible archive.

Performance artist Heather Lyon had just arrived at the residency, which for her would run through the end of September. She shared costumes and sculptural objects she had made, which often become part of her site-specific performance explorations.

Rachel Alexandrou, the resident gardener, led tours through the lush vegetable gardens, which are now offering everything from tomatoes, to hot peppers and eggplant, and even artichokes.

The final Open Studio Day will take place on Sunday, September 30th from 12-3PM. Heather Lyon, Rachel Alexandrou, and visual artists Clif Travers and Carol Douglas will be opening their studios and gardens for the public.

Row 1: Michel Droge

Row 2: Estefani Mercedes

Row 3: Heather Lyon

Row 4: Rachel Alexandrou and veggies from the garden

July Open Studio Day at the Fiore Art Center

Every summer the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center hosts artists-in-residence for the months of July, August and September. At the end of each month, the artists open up their studios to the public. On July 29th, the first Open Studio Day of the summer took place. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Jefferson and more than 75 people attended.

Thu Vu, the international resident from Vietnam, had a studio full of ink drawings on rice paper for installation commissions in Vietnam. She also shared some of the food-related paper sculptures she had been working on throughout the month, inspired by her time in the kitchen with fellow residents and all the fresh veggies grown by the resident gardener.

Maxwell Nolin, shared some of his portraits and sketches with guests and discussed his previous life as a farmer in midcoast Maine. One portrait which continuously piqued the attention of visitors was that of farmer, friend and mentor Polly Shyka (Villageside Farm, Freedom). During his residency, Nolin worked on a large portrait of his grandfather, as well as a self portrait.

Jodi Paloni, who spent the residency completing her first novel, held several readings in the living room throughout the afternoon. During one reading, Paloni shared how some characters were influenced by the people and experiences at the Fiore Art Center, and read some excerpts from her novel; for the second reading, she read one of her lyric essays –a process of weekly reflection –  which can be read here.

Resident gardener Rachel Alexandrou led three garden tours with  light question and answer sessions about the interesting vegetable varieties she has been growing for the residents, including crimson clover, a unique and stunning cover crop, and dark purple tomatoes (Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato from Baker Creek Seeds).

The next Open Studio Day will be held on Sunday, August 26th from noon-3pm. Later that day, the Art Center will also be hosting MFT’s third annual Agrarian Acts, a celebration of art through music. This year’s lineup features Syblline, Sugarbush, and Sara Trunzo. The Open Studio Day is free; buy your tickets for Agrarian Acts HERE.

Thu Vu

Max Nolin

Jodi Paloni

Rachel Alexandrou

Susan Bickford presents 4th annual outdoor performance (stillness)18 at Joseph A. Fiore Art Center

Saturday June 16, at 4pm, a gathering of artists across disciplines will present a participatory outdoor performance, celebrating connection to nature and invoking a deepening sense of place. Movers, vocalists, musicians, writers, visual artists, foragers, an astrologer and a cook are among the players who were part of the retreat at the Fiore Art Center for four days preparing the celebration. The public is invited to share an afternoon “in gratitude for the season of summer, of light, land, water and all of the beings inhabiting this place,” says artist Susan Bickford, who staged the first multidisciplinary performance of this kind at the reversing falls by her home in Newcastle, in 2015.

 

“The new location is a meditation on stillness in and of itself. In contrast to the reversing falls on the Sheepscot River (where the current comes to a standstill only for a moment), these fields and lake are often still,” says Bickford. “Here there is less waiting for stillness to arrive and more intentionally slowing ourselves down to match the pace of a caterpillar, the rhythm of a walnut tree. If we are lucky, we catch a glimpse of the slow train in our peripheral vision, take a deep breath and slide into a window seat. When we synch ourselves to the pulse of this place it expands our ability to notice whole worlds of wonder. If it sounds magical, it’s because simply, it is.”

 

Bickford has gathered twenty collaborators, including Andrea Goodman and Anna Dembska (vocalists), Susan Osberg (dancer) and Susan Smith (visual art), each of whom has participated in the event in previous years.

 

Participants include: Susan Bickford, Andrea Goodman, Anna Dembska, Susan Osberg, Zoe Mason, Rachel Alexandrou, Annabel O’Neill, Susan Smith, Kristin Dillon, Stan Levitsky, Cody Maroon, Luke Myers, Brianna Daley, Dakota Douglass, Matea Mills-Andruk, Fletcher Boote, Heather Lyon, Mary Jean Crowe, Robin Lane, and Anna Witholt Abaldo.

 

Public participation includes a slow walk across the land, a lakeside performance, a seasonal feast, and a fire. Tickets can be purchased online or on the day of the event, at 152 Punk Point Road, Jefferson, ME.

 

(stillness) 18 is generously supported by MFT’s Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, The Power Company, Damariscotta River Association, The Midcoast Conservancy and the Sheepscot General Store.

 

***

 

Bickford is a lecturer at the University of Maine at Augusta as well as Director of the Danforth Gallery. Bickfords’ approach to art is a deep ecological one. A Certified Nature Therapy Guide, Susan Bickford also holds an MFA from Maine College of Art and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Winner of the 2017 Maine Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in Media and Performance, Susan Bickford has been making interdisciplinary collaborative retreats/performances in nature since 2001. These performances also result in a video installation which is shown in traditional art spaces. The (stillness) project is an annual event that first began in 2015, migrating through sites along the waterways of Midcoast Maine.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

MFT Announces 2018 Joseph A. Fiore Art Center Residency Awards

Early this April, a jury panel consisting of Stuart Kestenbaum, Susan Larsen and Ariel Hall awarded eight recipients with a 4-6 week residency at MFT’s Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.

In its third year, the Center received 66 applications for its summer arts residency program. The categories included visual arts, literary arts and performing arts. This year one residency placement was reserved for an indigenous artist and one for an international or out-of-state artist.

About the Artists in Residency

Thu Vu, from Vietnam, was awarded the international visual arts residency. Vu first came to Maine from Hanoi Fine Arts College in 1998 as an exchange student; she attended Maine College of Art in Portland. Vu creates light sculptures made out of paper and natural materials. Her work has been exhibited throughout Asia, Europe and the USA.

Light Sculpture by Thu Kim Vu

The remaining five visual arts residencies were awarded to:

Carol Douglas: Douglas grew up on a farm and describes herself as a plein-air landscape painter whose primary interest lies in the relationship between humans and their environment.

“Finger Lakes Vineyard” by Carol Douglas

Clif Travers grew up in the mountains near Sugarloaf. One of his current bodies of work, The Medicine Cabinets, grew from three years of interviews with people around the country. Travers asked each person: “What would you consider to be a social malady that could be easily cured by regular folk?” The resulting “cabinets” are all connected to nature and show the malady, as well as the imagined cure.

Medicine Cabinet by Clif Travers

Michel Droge: Droge is an abstract painter—her work reflects a poetic connection to the land, climate change research and the philosophy of the sublime.

“Breathing Lessons” by Michel Droge

Estefani Mercedes: Mercedes is an activist artist with deep connections to Maine. She is interested in local Brooksville archives that connect to the Argentine dictatorship. Through radical justice, film photography and copyright law, she hopes to restore missing violent histories and silenced voices by building publicly accessible archives.

Untitled by Estefani Mercedes

Maxwell Nolin: Nolin is a young emerging portrait painter who most recently made a living as an organic vegetable farmer. His portraits often feature fellow farmers; however, he writes, “I have yet to fully immerse my subjects in the natural landscape. This seems to be where my interest lies and where my work is heading.”

“Toot and Roger Raw” by Maxwell Nolin

Literary Arts and Performing Arts Residents

The Fiore Art Center’s literary arts residency was awarded to Maine writer, Jodi Paloni. Paloni is currently working on her second book, a novel-in-stories, which takes place in the sixties and seventies on a farm similar to the Center’s Rolling Acres Farm, and tracks three Maine women from their girlhood to contemporary midlife.

Jodi Paloni

The performing arts residency was allocated to Heather Lyon. Lyon was born on a farm in Maine. Her art practice is site responsive and she plans to create new performance work at the Fiore Art Center, “responding to this unique place where the connections between art and farming can be explored and lived.”

View “MILK” by Heather Lyon here.

Heather Lyon

Resident Gardiner: Rachel Alexandrou

Each year, the Center hires a seasonal resident gardener, who lives on the farm for five months and grows food for the residents. “We’ve been lucky to find gardeners who also have their own creative practice, and enjoy being immersed in our residency program setting,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, co-director of the Fiore Art Center. This year’s gardener will be Rachel Alexandrou, from Alna. Her organic gardening experience spans a decade, and she is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in sustainable horticulture at UMaine, Orono, with a minor in studio art.

“Kale in Decay” by Rachel Alexandrou

Those interested can find more information on application details, summer visitor hours and open studio dates here.

About the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm

The mission of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm is to actively connect the creative worlds of farming and art making. The Center’s purpose is to continue and evolve the dialogue between human and environment within the context of our current culture and time. The Center offers exhibitions and public educational events, engages in research and development of new farming practices and hosts residencies for artists on a working farm in Jefferson, Maine. The Fiore Art Center is a program of MFT. The late Joseph Fiore was an artist and active environmentalist who, with his wife Mary, generously supported MFT for many years.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

An interview with artist Anne Alexander

Interview & writing by Eliza Graumlich;  Photos by Susan Metzger

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center are open. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with an affinity for the arts. Apply here!

FMI or contact Denise DeSpirito, Fiore Arts Center assistant: denise@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

To enter Anne Alexander’s studio is to catch a glimpse of the world through Goldilocks’ eyes: everything is too big or too small. When I visited her workspace in mid-September, located within a converted barn at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, it was filled with seashells and seedpods and squash and radishes, each item displayed beside a duplicate magnitudes larger. These larger renditions were made of clay and slightly abstracted, sometimes in form and sometimes due solely to their size. Swollen, they adopted new qualities: they were rounder, softer, more human and occasionally erotic. A seedpod morphed into what looked like worms; a radish to a baby’s bottom. The smaller forms seemed somehow too small: the radish, for instance, was shriveled with age and exposure.

Scale is central to Alexander’s work. “You know how, when you walk in the woods, sometimes you feel very small?” she asked. She hopes that her pieces—organic forms carved out of clay, wood and stone—will leave viewers with a similar sensation, affecting them on both an emotional and kinesthetic level. “Hopefully after seeing my work [people] might look at a tree branch in a different way, or look at a tiny little plant pod and imagine it on a larger scale.”

Alexander led me to the second room of her Jefferson studio. Originally, this is where farm implements were repaired. Today, Alexander uses the left behind vice to clutch the pieces of alabaster that she carves. “When I first came in here I was really feeling the presence of someone who used to work in the shop,” she confessed. “It was comforting. I felt like somebody was happy that I was working here.” One day, as she was hammering, a shiny drill bit rolled into view. “It felt like I was being given gifts.”

 

Given the surreal nature of her art and her equally fantastic experiences in the studio, it is no surprise that Alexander refers to this part of Maine as “fairytale land.” Her roots here are deep: her father grew up in nearby Damariscotta and attended Lincoln Academy, just like his own father, and his mother before him. Alexander herself spent childhood summers along the Damariscotta River. Today she lives in Windham. “I have a cousin that lives in Bremen and we’d go to Waldoboro or South Bristol, but I’d never come down this road, the 213,” Alexander admitted. “It’s so beautiful. It’s no wonder so many artists live here.”

The earliest inspirations for Alexander’s work, in fact, can be attributed to one of these artists. As a child, Alexander and her family visited the Cushing home of famed sculptor Bernard Langlais. There, she remembers climbing so high onto a sculpture (a wooden elephant or maybe a lion—she can’t recall) that she could see Langlais himself, in his adjacent outdoor studio. “I remember waving to him over the fence and seeing him with his tools and his crazy hair, working,” she recalled. “He was very happy.” This experience, she said, “sparked something” in her. Since, Langlais’ work has been a guiding inspiration for her own, particularly due to its public nature, use of natural materials and scale.

Like Langlais, Alexander often carves in public. “People say ‘Oh, I don’t have the patience for that,’ and I think, ‘It’s not patience for me. It’s that I just want to get back to it. I want to stop all the other stuff in my life and just get back to [my work].” While this notion is romantic, it was also readily apparent upon meeting Alexander in her studio. Midway through our conversation, she spotted part of a large cedar sculpture that needed fixing and worked at it for the duration of the visit.

An interview with artist Jess Klier

Interview & writing by Eliza Graumlich;  Photos by Susan Metzger

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center are open. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with affinity for the arts. Apply here!

FMI or contact Denise DeSpirito, Fiore Arts Center assistant: denise@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

When I asked Jessica Klier to describe her work, she took out a small stack of cards and placed them on the floor between us, one by one, as if she were about to predict my future or perhaps invite me to play a game of Memory. Some looked as though they might be flashcards, each featuring a single word: “portals,” “hold,” and  “milkweed.” Another quoted Ecclesiastes 6:9: “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” On the final card there was simply a line, about three inches long, with a filled circle at each end. “A tightrope,” Klier explained.

Not long after, she sprung up again to pick a milkweed pod from outside. (Klier’s urge to always be doing something with her hands is readily apparent.) With deftly splayed scissors, she sliced the green bulb down the middle, pried apart the halves and invited me to stroke the silky white fuzz carpeting its interior. “So, this is milkweed,” she said. “And portals,” I ventured, beginning to catch on.

Klier makes elaborate installations from recycled waste and found objects, these days gathering her materials on walks around Rolling Acres Farm. She also draws. Sketches pinned to a studio wall trace the places she likes to spend her time: the hammock, the lake, the nearby botanical garden and the yarn shop in Damariscotta. Here, she met local artist Diane Langley, who now teaches Klier how to spin wool and make paper from abaca (a fiber derived from the banana plant) in exchange for garden work.

A wild mushroom and a dirtied sheet of plastic, perhaps the remnants of a single use shopping bag, are Klier’s two favorite objects found so far during the residency. Both were incorporated into an installation depicting larger-than-life fallopian tubes. The wild mushroom is one half of a set of candleholders in the foreground of the piece and the plastic, now embedded with dried flowers, forms part of the plush uterine wall. “I’m really interested in how many hands have touched a thing,” Klier said.

Klier’s interest in hands manifests in her other major installation, as well. “This shrine over here, this is for my Nana,” Klier explained. “She died and her favorite color was yellow and this is something she used to wear in her hair and actually my great grandmother made these,” she continued, gesturing to the piece. Behind her, widths of knit material suspended midair in soft curves call to mind hammocks or, perhaps, tightropes. A pair of knitting needles embedded midway through one of the swatches suggests phantom hands taking a break from their work. “I’ve been thinking a lot about shrines lately,” Klier said. “Everything is a shrine, even the cups in your cupboard. You like those things enough to put them there. Or what’s next to your bed: a book and a pen that doesn’t work and an old cup of tea. That would be mine.”

Perhaps most revealing about Klier’s work is the way she talks about it, with a touch of anthropomorphism. Sitting at her spinning wheel, showing me how to manipulate wool into yarn, she spoke of how the fibers “all wanted space and then ended up latching on to each other.” Later, showing me the plaster mold she’d made around a tiny knit animal, she explained, “everything is compressing or ripping at each other or being like ‘Hey, I want to hang out with you.’” Weaving together the animate and inanimate, the lost and the found, Klier’s work begs its viewer to soften and enjoy in the small human pleasures of life.

MFT’s Joseph A. Fiore Art Center Announces 2018 Residencies & Jury Panel

Jefferson.

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson will open in early December. Over the course of the summer the Center will host six visual art residencies (five for Maine artists, one of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; and one for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with an affinity for the arts. Those interested can find more information and application details online at https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org//jaf-art-center/.

This will be the third summer that the Fiore Art Center has offered a residency program. David Dewey and Anna Witholt Abaldo, co-directors at the Center, are excited to be working with yet another excellent jury panel. “Because we are introducing a different writing residency this year, and a completely new performing arts residency, we searched for professionals with experience in these fields who also possess a strong visual arts background,” explains Witholt Abaldo.

Ariel Hall was invited to the panel with an eye on the performing arts residency. Ariel Hall is a multi-disciplinary artist working mainly in performance and installation. She has shown her work at La MaMa, Panoply Performance Lab, the Culture Project, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and in the streets of New York City and Sao Paulo, among other locales and venues. Ariel assisted curators at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for two years, helping them better execute performative and interactive artworks in the museum’s galleries; she also performed and facilitated the production of these artworks. Ariel holds an MA in Performance Studies from NYU. She served as Events Director at the Steel House in Rockland and in recent years as Curator for TEDx, Portland, ME.

 

Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of four collections of poems, Pilgrimage (Coyote Love Press), House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook Editions), Prayers and Run-on Sentences (Deerbrook Editions), and Only Now (Deerbrook Editions) and a collection of essays The View From Here (Brynmorgen Press).  He has written and spoken widely on craft making and creativity, and his poems and writing have appeared in numerous small press publications and magazines. He was appointed poet laureate of Maine in 2016.  Kestenbaum was the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine for 27 years, where he established innovative programs combining craft and writing and craft and new technologies. He is an honorary fellow of the American Craft Council and a recipient of the Distinguished Educator’s Award from the James Renwick Alliance.

 

Susan C. Larsen, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation in Portland, Maine.  She is an art historian and critic who was formerly Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California, Curator of the Permanent Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Chief Curator of The Farnsworth Art Museum, and Collector of Documents for the Smithsonian Institution. She has written on a wide range of American art and artists including the work of:  Charles Biederman; Vija Celmins; David Dewey; Richard Diebenkorn; Charles Duback; Joseph Fiore; Viola Frey; Edward Hopper; Hoon Kwak; John McLaughlin; Leo Rabkin; Italo Scanga; Jon Serl; William Thon; Cy Twombly and many others. She lives with her husband, Lauri Robert Martin, in South Portland, Maine.

During the summer of 2017, six visual artists, one writer/archeologist and one gardener/artist lived and worked together at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center. The results of their creative residencies were enjoyed by visitors to the Center’s monthly Open Studio Days. Eliza Graumlich (a young writer hailing from Bowdoin College) and Susan Metzger (photographer) interviewed each resident to capture their process and experience at the Fiore Art Center. Interviews and photos can be found online at: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/latest-news/

 

The mission of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm is to actively connect the creative worlds of farming and art making. The Center’s purpose is to continue and evolve the dialogue between human and environment within the context of our current culture and time. It offers exhibitions and public educational events, it engages in research and development of new farming practices and hosts residencies for artists on a working farm in Jefferson, Maine. The Fiore Art Center is a program of Maine Farmland Trust. The late Joseph Fiore was an artist and active environmentalist who, with his wife Mary, generously supported Maine Farmland Trust for many years.

An Interview with Elizabeth Hoy

Interviews & writing by Eliza Graumlich;  Photos by Susan Metzger

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center are open!  There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with affinity for the arts. Apply here.

FMI or contact Denise DeSpirito, Fiore Arts Center assistant: denise@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

Before she published Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote about the ocean. Frequenting a quarter-acre salt pond in the Muscongus Bay and tidal zones near the mouth of the Sheepscot River, she accumulated observations that would later inform The Edge of the Sea. Elizabeth Hoy, one of August’s artists-in-residence at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, thinks Carson might have ventured up to the Damariscotta area, too. “If we know that she was in one place, we know that she was around,” Hoy extrapolated. “She could have visited this lake.”

Hoy didn’t come to Jefferson planning to follow in Carson’s footsteps. For the past year and a half, she has been painting Superfund sites: locales that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined to be among our country’s most contaminated, and in grave need of national aid and intervention. (The EPA was founded in 1970, in response to the environmental fervor generated by Carson’s work.) However, upon arriving in Maine, Hoy started to revisit Carson’s writing. Learning of their proximity, she then began to visit and paint the same shorelines that had inspired Carson’s early research. Despite fifty years of distance, these zones remain largely unchanged.

True to Carson’s tradition, Hoy does most of her work outside, painting with oil and drawing with whatever materials might be at hand: pastel, watercolor or pen. “My paintings and drawings are pretty fast,” she confessed. “I feel like the further away I am from my experience, the more it can start to become something else.” More curated are Hoy’s sculptures, which mimic her paintings in both subject and form. “They’re on the wall and have a framing device,” she explained. “They’re almost like a little diorama or a stage set.” The sculptures are made out of found materials: scraps of fabric purchased at local church sales, carefully selected pieces of beach trash and more.

“What happens,” Hoy explained, “is really terrible but also sort of cool. Little bits of plastic get tossed with the rocks and end up looking like rocks themselves. Even Styrofoam cups look like pieces of shell or something.” She retrieved a fistful of synthetic treasures from the other side of the studio and arranged them delicately on the ground between us: an impossibly round sand dollar, a smooth stone, a necklace-grade piece of shell. “They’re really hard to find because they blend in so well,” she said.

The Superfund site nearest to Hoy’s home is Newtown Creek, a tributary of New York City’s East River that separates Brooklyn from Queens. Despite its designation, the area remains industrial. The riverscape features a recycling plant, petroleum trucks, barges that carry crushed cars and a colony of stray cats. No signs name the creek’s status as protected; Superfund sites are unmarked. Online there is a database that lists site names, but it lacks full street addresses. Hoy uses satellite images on Google Earth to locate sites she hasn’t yet visited, looking for large, empty pieces of land.

I asked Hoy how much explanation she liked to include in her labels given the abstract nature of her work. She tends to give very little context, she said, sometimes providing only the definition of a Superfund site, or a list of materials. She is more interested in seeing what effect her work has on its viewers: “If everybody’s thinking about one thing and you’re not thinking about that, maybe you should start.”

An Interview with Josselyn Richards Daniels

Interview and writing by Eliza Graumlich, photos by Susan Metzger

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center open early December. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with affinity for the arts. FMI or contact Denise DeSpirito, Fiore Arts Center assistant: denise@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

Josselyn Richards Daniels doesn’t wash her palette very often.  When all of the colors run together, they become a little closer to brown, she says, and a little closer to the dust and dirt that her subjects once inhabited.

Before she draws an insect, Daniels must first kill an insect, gently and without smashing anything. The freezer becomes a low-tech cryonics lab. After the bug thaws slightly, Daniels arranges its appendages, fashioning antennae and legs and elytra (wing casings) into a three dimensional Rorschach test. Limbs are bent to showcase joints. Wings are splayed open. Straight pins—the kind with a plastic bead of teal or magenta or yellow at the top—keep everything in place. When the bug has dried, Daniels removes all but one of the pins. The placement of this final pin is based in tradition and varies by species. For Daniels’ most recent specimen, the carrion beetle, it is the pin on the right side of the thorax that remains.

Of course, these steps are merely preparatory. Her desk has five slim paintbrushes, several shiny tubes of paint and a pencil sharpener, and all have yet to be used. Next, Daniels will tone her canvas with walnut ink and a hacky brush. She will sketch an outline of the beetle with a mechanical pencil and use a proportional divider to confirm scale lengths and widths. Then, there is watercolor, hatching, gouache and hand lettering, preferably in a Roman font.

Daniels began her residency at Rolling Acres Farm with the intention of designing a poster on garden-friendly bugs. However, upon arrival, she started drawing the living things that she found around her: wildflowers in the hay field, lupines out by the road, the aforementioned carrion beetle (found atop a dead snake that she hoped to sketch) and various species of bees. Previously, as a student at Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California, Daniels dedicated 60 hours per week to studying fundamentals and technique. Now, she hopes to build a portfolio.

Biological illustration is different from fine art, Daniels explains, in that the former explores the world while the latter explores the self. However, Daniels’ works seems to stand at a junction of the two genres. Her illustrations, captivating in their realism and handsome in their aesthetic, would be equally appropriate gracing the illustrious back cover of Cook’s Illustrated or the walls of a gallery.

Daniels’ residency in Maine completes a journey begun in her childhood. Her earliest memory of making art comes from a camping trip in Bradbury Mountain State Park when she was five years old. After sighting a barn owl illuminated in the light of the campfire, she asked her family for drawing materials. Though she accepted the pen she was offered, she eschewed the back of an old receipt in favor of birch bark. Later in her childhood, she made fairy houses in the lilac trees behind her Munjoy Hill home and attended a school on Mackworth Island—a piece of land donated to the state in 1946 by Governor Percival Proctor Baxter “as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.”

In the fall, Daniels will study Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. This program of study—the only one offered by the college—focuses on investigating the relationships between humans and their environments. Daniels says that her primary educational goal for COA is to gain an understanding of environmental sciences, in order to inform her artwork as a natural science illustrator.

An interview with artist Tanja Kunz

interview & writing by Eliza Graumlich, photos by Susan Metzger

Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center open early December. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with an affinity for the arts. FMI or contact Denise DeSpirito, Fiore Arts Center assistant: denise@mainefarmlandtrust.org

Tanja Kunz says that she likes pretty places. She also likes light, wildflowers and the color green.

Her artwork—botanically-referenced yet abstract paintings and drawings—reads like photosynthesis distilled. Energy emanates from each canvas, as movement, illumination or both.

Kunz’ studio at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center is a mirror to the surrounding farmland: greens and yellows spotlighted in the July sun have another life indoors, in oil paint. Everything here is radiant. Kunz is unapologetic. Why not paint that which is already lovely? Paraphrasing the American abstract painter Agnes Martin, she queries: “What is wrong with the world? So suspect of beauty!”

The first painting of Kunz’ that caught my eye was from a series depicting Queen Anne’s lace—a flower perhaps more familiar as “wild carrot” or “bird’s nest” or even “bishop’s lace,” depending on where your mother grew up. On canvas, the delicate blooms seem to stretch slightly larger than life, though their size is ultimately ambiguous; the petals grow and shrink with a tilt of the head. Kunz describes this fluctuation as the work’s generosity to the viewer, and a quality of the paint that is impossible to reproduce in a photograph. Behind the flower’s precisely rendered umbels, broad streaks of light flood into an otherwise muted background. Here, there is a breeze. There is juxtaposition of focus and gesture, and a tension between abstraction and representation.

Also of note are Kunz’ field studies. They too feature Queen Anne’s lace, but this time acrylic on paper and monotone. Despite the limited color palate, they remain luminous, drawing the eye even from their placement in the corner of the room. Imagine cyanotypes but without the cyan. Each work is an exercise in form and line. Kunz says that her field studies are a way of returning to a subject with a different language. She thinks of everything she has ever painted as one large work in progress. A circle, not a line.

Unlike many artists, quick to intertwine explanations of their work with references to their own biographies, Kunz is decidedly private. She is interested in traditional and herbal medicine. She studied cell structure through painting to earn her MFA. She has lived in New Mexico and Texas and, now, Maine. This is all. What she has to say, she says through her art.