In a state like Maine, sometimes the greatest fruits of our labor grow through friendship. The multi-media exhibit “In the INTERVAL between snowflakes,” on view at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery from November 20 through January 5, is a case in point. The exhibition (part photography, part sculpture, part poetry) is a result of over 25 years of friendship between artist Bruce McAffee Towl and farmers Barbara and Jason Kafka, of Checkerberry Farm in Parkman, Maine. “It all started twenty-five years ago,” McAffee Towl recounts, “because Jason held out his hand and in his palm were the seeds for an entire crop of onions, and we said ‘Let’s make a book for the Common Ground Fair!’ That’s what got us started.”
“It was all drawings at first,” McAffee Towl continues. “It was the friendship that allowed the farmers and their crew to feel comfortable, to have someone right there with pencil and paper to record their triumphs and less-than-triumphs.” His nickname soon became The Spector. Fast forward two and a half decades: McAffee Towl presented the harvest of 25 years of drawings, photography, sculpture and poetry to his community, in the barn adjacent to his home in Dover-Foxcroft, in October of 2016.
“It was an emotionally moving experience,” writes John Harker, now retired but previously Director of Market and Production Development for the Maine Department of Agriculture for 26 years. He and many others felt that this exhibit must be shared around the State, as a way to raise awareness of the work that goes into growing food and simultaneously, as a way to celebrate Maine’s family farms.
Maine Farmland Trust Gallery was a logical first choice. “It was Barbara Kafka from Checkerberry Farm who approached us about Bruce’s exhibit,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, gallery curator at Maine Farmland Trust. “When I went to see Bruce’s exhibit in early 2017, she was there, and it became immediately apparent that this production was truly a team effort, and important to many.” The Maine Arts Commission awarded INTERVAL partial funding to be adapted for display at other venues. Betsy Miller Minott, a former farm crew member at Checkerberry, has since been instrumental in converting the exhibit for display at MFT Gallery.
As curator of MFT Gallery, Witholt Abaldo has seen a plethora of artworks and exhibits that speak to farm life. “INTERVAL is unique,” she notes, “because of the decades of heartfelt observation that pour out through the poetry, the photographs, even the hand-hewn bench made from a fallen tree which serves as a seat to view the digital slide show. It is truly a labor of love.” In McAffee Towl’s own words, the exhibit “celebrates the I N T E R V A L between snowflakes: raising organic fruits and vegetables on a rural Maine farm in the state’s short growing season, and aims to honor all those who ‘bend’ to raise food for many of us.”
The exhibit will be on display from November 20, 2017 through January 5, 2018, and opens with a festive, public reception on Saturday December 2. The reception will be preceded by Artist/Farmer Talks at 5pm; the reception runs from 5:30-8pm. 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.
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.