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Ed Nadeau’s Compost Paintings: The Cycle of Life

June 1, 2012 @ 8:00 am - July 11, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

For a fine-art painter to devote a whole body of work to the subject of compost is certainly pushing the edge. But Ed Nadeau likes it that way. “Lots of art is rather safe these days,” he says. “Tough art has taken a back seat.”

Nadeau sees his compost paintings as metaphors about the cycle of life. Reminiscent of Monet’s Haystacks, yet distinctively different in content, they catalyze a dialogue about death and rebirth. In a culture that glorifies “progress” and likes to skip over our inevitable vulnerability, Nadeau’s art is a voice that echoes Wendell Berry’s:


To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass

to grow and die.  I have plowed in the seeds

of winter grains and of various legumes,

their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.

I have stirred into the ground the offal

and the decay of the growth of past seasons

and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.

All this serves the dark.  I am slowly falling

into the fund of things. 

(Excerpt from Wendell Berry’s Enriching the Earth)
From this perspective, composting is not only a transformative process that takes what has died and recycles it into nourishment for new life, it’s an almost reverent act which reminds us of our place in the circle of life. “Only a people who longed to cheat death would neglect to build soil,” Berry says.

For Nadeau, there is a very personal connection to the death-rebirth symbolism conveyed by the Compost series. “My father died when I was fifteen,” he recounts. “It made me realize that come hell or high water, I should do what I really love – and that is painting. This idea of regeneration – the cycle of things dying and going back into the earth to help new things grow, is a real connection to my dad. It’s a metaphor.”

The exhibit Compost Paintings: The Cycle of Life opens Friday June 1 with a reception from 5:30-8pm at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, 97 Main Street in Belfast. The show will feature a range of new works by Ed Nadeau, including oils on canvas and compost drawings. In addition, local artist Vincent Abaldo will create an interactive installation in the window of the gallery commenting on the same theme. The exhibit will be on display until July 11, 2012.

Artist Ed Nadeau is a native of Maine whose paintings depict the land and people of his home state in various incarnations. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1980 with his BFA in painting and from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1986 with his MFA in painting.

Assistant Professor Nadeau teaches 2d-design, painting and drawing at the University of Maine in Orono and has taught advanced courses in Landscape Painting, Figure Drawing, Nature Drawing and Materials and Techniques for Painters.

His paintings have been exhibited widely, including at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland Art Place, School 33 Art Center, the Park School, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, the University of Maine in Orono, Whitney Art Works in Portland, Maine, and the Drawing Center, NYC.

Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, Maine currently represents his paintings. His works are held in many private collections both nationally and internationally.


June 1, 2012 @ 8:00 am
July 11, 2012 @ 5:00 pm
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Maine Farmland Trust Gallery
97 Main St.
Belfast, ME 04915 United States
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