From April 4 through May 30, Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is exhibiting black and white photographs, paintings, mixed media works and an artist book which all tie together around the common theme of farming families in Maine.
On the ground floor is a photographic documentary by Collin Howell who, over the course of three years, became a frequent guest at Winterberry Farm. Her photo series, “Sage,” shows us life on a family farm through the eyes of a young girl, whose only home has been this land that sustains her. “What makes this body of work so successful is the palpable intimacy that the photographer developed with this family,” says MFT Gallery curator Anna Abaldo. “She was able to be present without being intrusive, giving us a very close look into the family’s daily life. It’s as if we ourselves are standing in the kitchen while the bread is being kneaded; as if we ourselves are trailing behind Sage as she does her farm chores.”
The second floor showcases three different painters – Leslie Harris, Maxwell Nolin and Pat Wheeler – along with book artist Abbie Read.
Leslie Harris, from Abraham’s Goat Farm in Newport, is showing a new body of work consisting of portraits of family members past and present, which string together like a veritable farm-family tree. Great grandmothers standing proudly in front of a lush vegetable garden are represented alongside the artist’s own grandchildren, gathered together in the living room on a sunny afternoon on the farm.
Maxwell Nolin, new on the Belfast art scene and new to MFT Gallery, is also a farmer: he and his partner Hannah grow vegetables for the Belfast Coop on Harrow Down Farm in Brooks. Like Leslie Harris, he paints other farming family and friends in his environment, yet with a surrealistic, dreamlike twist.
Pat Wheeler is not a farmer, but very connected to her farming community in the Blue Hill and Deer Isle area, which she portrays in her mixed media works. She titled this recent body of work “The Hunger for Connection,” showing that farmers in her area are meeting two needs simultaneously, by growing food and community. Many of her larger works incorporate what she refers to as “bundles ” – gathered bits and pieces of nature that she wraps, stitches, glues and waxes together. “They are something sacred,” says Wheeler, “each bundle like a kernel of the whole land.”
Abbie Read created a large artist book in honor of her niece Morgan, who farmed on Matinicus Island last year, from April until November. She shares: “The pages of the book are the grain bags that accumulated as my niece Morgan fed her pigs, hens and ducks. She is the fifth generation to farm in our family, in some way, beginning with my grandmother’s father.”
The artists will be present for an artist talk on Friday May 27, from 4:30-5:30pm, followed by a reception during Belfast’s first art walk this season, from 5:30-8pm. All are welcome. For more information please visit www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.