Belfast. For more than ten years John Arden Knight has been painting weeds – the very thing most of us rip out of the ground without a second thought. Knight, who resides in Portland, is attracted to plants that escape the confines of our gardens, landscaping and urban development. Maine Farmland Trust Gallery will be showing his work, and that of four other artists, in an exhibit titled The Wild Things, from June 6 through July 25.
Knight’s weed paintings demand to be noticed. They are oversized, colorful, and defy the traditional laws of composition that define so much of contemporary landscape painting. His painting of St. John’s Wort, an herb which is known for its anti-depressant qualities, seems to depict not only the plant itself, but its energy and healing properties: bands of light shoot out from the root of the plant, radiating through the entire ground below.
Paired with Knight’s weeds are Amy Peters Wood’s paintings of wild places in Maine, seen from above. Wood is an artist who walks her talk – she does not just depict the wild things around her, she devotes her life to living in harmony with all creation. She paints with egg tempera, using eggs from her own farm and pigments collected from around the world. Having done her honors thesis for her bachelor’s degree in special relativity, she maintains a rapport with quantum mechanics and the relationship between energy and matter, time and space. To contemplate one of Wood’s paintings means to contemplate the bigger picture, the interconnectedness of all things, wild and less wild.
Leslie Bowman focused her body of work on milkweed and monarchs, and their interdependent relationship, creating paintings and small ceramics, which interact with live milkweed plants. In her study of these two organisms, she writes: “I am increasingly amazed by how complex and intelligent all of nature is. Most of the species have been around for eons before humans showed up. They should “know “something. What we consider “wild” or a weed has evolved for a reason… Who are we to call it wild? At best we can tap into that wildness and use it for our own evolution.”
Anne Alexander’s sculpture is about nature and its connection to life stages, growth cycles and the human body. She will be exhibiting her new work, the Guandule Series. Guandules are pigeon peas- a delicacy and source of protein in The Dominican Republic and other tropical countries. Alexander confesses she becomes obsessed with certain forms; she has recently carved a four-foot long granite guandul, and has been working on a series of ceramic guandules for a few years now, experimenting with color using various organic-looking, layered glaze combinations.
Sarah Szwajkos contributed several photographs that are as much about finding wilderness in the landscape, as finding the wilderness within. Says Szwajkos: “Something happened to me in the fall of 2014. I started climbing up a certain hill, over and over again. I was following an instinct that it would be good for me – for my body and my spirit – to spend more time immersed in nature. On these walks I brought my camera and made photographs – just for myself. After years of making images for clients, I had started to feel like I no longer knew what kinds of pictures I would make if left to my own devices.”
The artists will be present for an artist talk on June 24, from 4:30-5:30pm, followed by a reception and Belfast’s Fourth Friday Art Walk from 5:30-8pm.
MFT Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. On Fourth Friday Art Walks, the gallery is open until 8pm. All other Friday evenings during July and August, the gallery is open until 7pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/gallery/ .
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