Belfast. What makes a farm a farm? Is it the fences, the animals, the farmer out on the land? In times past, the iconic grandeur of the big barn alone was enough to convey agricultural activity. While that may not necessarily be true today, barns remain an emblem of farm life. Whether a barn continues to exist as a home for animals or hay, a place for tractors or tools, or has found a second life as an art studio, the barn holds an important place in Maine’s history, as well as in many of our hearts.
That Ole’ Barn, the next exhibit at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, is dedicated to Maine’s barns in all their variety and splendor. Through the eyes of sixteen different artists the barn is portrayed for its architectural significance in the landscape, its central role on the farm, as a testament to Maine’s rural heritage, and as a vessel holding childhood memories or future visions.
With That Ole’ Barn, several new artists join the ranks of Maine Farmland Trust Gallery: sisters Sheep Jones and Julie Cyr, formerly represented by High Street Gallery, Belfast, as well as oil painters Ingunn Milla Jørgensen and Walter Smalling, watercolorist Margaret La Farge and ceramic sculptor Randy Fein.
Returning favorites include Vincent Abaldo (found object assemblages), the late Joseph Fiore (oils), Elizabeth Fraser (oils), Terry Hire (photography), Elizabeth Ostrander (sculpture), Kathleen Perelka (pastels), Michael Reid (photography), Willy Reddick (white-line woodblock prints), Robin Rier (oils), and Margaret Rizzio (mixed media collage).
Each artist seems to have a personal connection to a particular barn, or to barns in general.
Margaret La Farge from Machias grew up on an old farmstead where she and her siblings played in an old post and beam barn. For sculptor Elizabeth Ostrander, Eastport, there’s a sense of comfort and belonging when she thinks back to her own “ole’ barn” from long ago, remembering the sweet smells of hay and molasses-fortified grain, together with the reassuring sounds of low belly rumblings and chewing from two horses, three goats, and a pony.
Robin Rier remembers jumping off a hayloft as a kid. Elizabeth Fraser recalls the sense of mystery and magic whilst poking around in her grandfather’s old, two-story barn filled with antiques. Terry Hire is drawn to the texture of old barn doors, the lines and patterns. Vincent Abaldo hopes to still restore his late-1700’s post and beam barn. All of his submissions to the exhibit have been made from old parts of that very structure.
That Ole’ Barn opens with a public reception on Friday October 3rd, from 5:30-8pm. The show will be on display until November 14. Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is located at 97 Main Street, Belfast and is open M-F from 9-4. For more information visit www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.
The gallery is open for extra hours on the weekend of October 11 & 12, for Cultivate: Belfast Area Farm & Arts Trail. For more information visit http://belfastcreativecoalition.org/cultivate/.
On Friday evening October 17th, MFT Gallery will be hosting local poets Toussaint St. Negritude and Josh Kauppila as part of Belfast’s Annual Poetry Festival. Being not only poets but also partners on a small goat farm in Swanville, the duo will be reading poems which speak to their deep connection with the land. Check the home page of www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org for exact time of the reading.
Author Don Perkins will be giving a free talk about the history of barns in Maine, on Thursday November 13th at 6:30pm, at the Belfast Free Library. His book, The Barns of Maine, will be available for purchase at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery for the duration of the exhibit, as well as at the presentation. Visit www.ourbarns.com for more information on the book and the author.
Artwork at top: Thorndike, Julie Cyr