A farmer’s work is very practical and down-to-earth: to till the soil, to hay the field, to plant the seedlings, to milk the cows. And so is the work of Maine Farmland Trust: to protect farmland and support farmers so that a next generation can grow healthy, local food for the people of Maine and beyond.
But if you’ve ever talked to your farmer, you will know that farming is so much more than producing a product for market. The farmers with whom the Trust works are aware of their connection with the land and the forces of nature, and speak of this in ways that leave philosophers and poets in their shadow.
And even for the rest of us, farms are much more than a business: they co-create the landscape around us, and thus contribute unmistakably to the character of rural Maine and to our collective sense of place.
“If you have a sense of place, if you have a sense of community, and perhaps a sense of history, you’ll care for the land.”
– Steve Miller, Miller Farm, Maine (in From the Land: Maine Farms at Work by Bridget Besaw and John Piotti)
How do we look at nature, a farm, a dirt road leading into the woods? Do we observe it from the outside, as though we are separate from it – or can we take a step in and enter it? It’s when we get lost in nature, or paradoxically, when we get so familiar with a particular place that it becomes part of us, like the farmer with her field, that we experience that sense of intimacy of place.
It is with this intention of intimacy with the land that each of the artists in this show has stepped deep into the landscape: not looking to capture a grand view from afar, but to get up close and personal with a rock, a path, a particular tree or pond.
In their own way, each artist attempts to find a voice that speaks through color, light, a rough line or careful composition about the sheer being of nature: the nature that, even in its simplest presentation remains grand, embodying life itself.
There is an invitation here: to contemplate walking on Joseph Fiore’s Cow Path, where the tender spring light filters in through the leaves and dapples the ground; or to sit on Jude Valentine’s moss-covered rock, resting in the middle of the forest, becoming one with the surrounding silence.
While John Woolsey’s swift pastel strokes invoke the untamable wilderness of the Maine woods, the closeness with his subject (often one rock, a tree) creates a micro lens through which every little detail seems noted.
For Johan Selmer-Larsen, entering nature with his camera is like going on a journey of discovery. He favors places that exude a quiet melancholy. “The places I photograph in central Maine are like an understatement compared to the more dramatic coast. There’s no spectacle here: it’s just the land itself.”
These images slow us down, invite us to pause and enter the scene with all of our senses – even ruminate on our own favorite places and well-worn paths, both current and of long-ago. They invite us to remember our own connection with the land and how we, too, like the farmer’s seedlings, spring from this earth and have a place here.
With “Intimacy of Place,” Maine Farmland Trust Gallery aims to honor the rural land of Maine in its own right, and add a poetic voice to the human hands that tend it with such care.
“Intimacy of Place” with (new) works by Joseph Fiore (1925-2008: watercolors, oils and pastels), Johan Selmer-Larsen (photography), Jude Valentine (pastels) and John Woolsey (pastels and gouaches)opens Friday July 19, 5:30-8pm with a Grand Opening Reception to celebrate Maine Farmland Trust’s recent renovation. All are welcome.
The gallery, located at 97 Main Street in Belfast, is open during the summer Monday through Friday from 9-5, Friday 5-8pm and Saturday from 10am-2pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org