Belfast. In the summer of 2016, four artists spent a month living and creating at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson. More precisely: a month of observing and noting, walking and musing, painting and drawing, collecting and interacting with the soil, the water, the weeds, woods and sky.
These four artists, all from Maine, were the very first artists-in-residence at Maine Farmland Trust’s Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, an initiative started last year in collaboration with the Falcon Foundation in Damariscotta, which holds the works of late artist and environmentalist Joseph A. Fiore (1925-2008).
The Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm aims to actively connect the creative worlds of farming and art making by way of exhibitions and public educational events, through research and development of new farming practices and by hosting residencies for artists on a working farm.
David Dewey, trustee and curator of the Falcon Foundation and co-director of the Fiore Art Center believes that an artist residency is an important creative interlude from the demands of life, which allows artists time to refresh their creative batteries and develop their art work with a clear mind. “We all need a break at times; the residency program can be a valuable period of critical artistic growth that both the artist and the public can benefit from.”
The four 2016 artists-in-residence Thomas R. Higgins*, Robert Pollien*, Thérèse Provenzano and Susan Smith are now exhibiting the work created during their month at Rolling Acres Farm at the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast. The exhibition, titled In Dialogue with Nature, is on display until March 24th, with artist talks and a closing reception on Friday March 17, at 5pm. (*Higgins appears courtesy of Greenhut Gallery, Pollien appears courtesy of Dowling-Walsh Gallery.)
The artists each had their own unique approach and experience. Higgins, a landscape painter who worked mostly in oils, followed by some drawing, shared: “Having the unobstructed freedom to come and go as I please has resulted in the opportunity to focus on subject matter not explored in recent years, and the chance to get to know a few locations intimately.” Pollien, also a landscape painter, said: “The month was very productive and I find that the intensity of the residency has carried over nicely. The time spent working and thinking deeply about painting continues to be of lasting value.”
Provenzano, pastel painter, spent many a day right outside the glass doors of her barn studio. “My residency at Rolling Acres Farm provided a new lay of land to digest, en plein air. The sky read imposing, vast or aloof. Rain and clouds made their presence known. Reaching and digesting the land, alone and unencumbered […], took precedence.”
The vibrant greens and lively brush strokes of Higgins’ paintings; the reverent stillness which Pollien is able to evoke with his coastal views and clouds; Provenzano’s meditation on the S-curved farm road meandering down to Damariscotta Lake – each speak to a different aspect and experience of the fields, water and sky at Rolling Acres Farm.
Smith took a different approach entirely. Her site-specific art practice lies somewhere between the archeological, ideological, experimental and ephemeral. She collected rusty old bits of farm equipment, branches, soil and plant materials, and created intricate eco-prints by tightly wrapping these different ingredients into cloth “bundles,” then steaming them. Her work wants to be touched, and speaks straight to the soul of buried history, sleeping memory, and connection to land that longs to be known.
In Dialogue with Nature is currently on display until March 24th, with artist talks and a closing reception on Friday March 17 at 5pm. New work by MFT Gallery artists Julie Cyr, Dahlov Ipcar, Sheep Jones, Christopher O’Connor and Lou Schellenberg on the second floor.
Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.
The Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm, located at 152 Punk Point Rd, Jefferson, is accepting applications for 2017 residencies until March 1st. More information can be found at https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/.
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