For over 10 years, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) has worked with photographers, filmmakers and artists across the state to tell eye-opening stories about farming and conservation in Maine.
For MFT’s 20th anniversary, a retrospective exhibit was curated, showcasing a small selection of works exhibited at the MFT Gallery over the past 10 years. The show highlights farms, founding members, MFT gallery artists, and others who have played key roles in growing the future of farming in Maine. Some works were commissioned by MFT, while many were created independently by artists passionate about farming, conservation, and local food. These artists use their work as a vehicle to speak out about important issues, raise awareness and support our mission.
Artist Leslie Moore is exhibiting her pen and ink drawing of the late farmer Paul Birdsall and his horses at Horsepower Farm in Penobscot. Birdsall was one of the founders of MFT in 1999, a longtime board member, and is considered to be the father of farmland protection in Maine.
Avy Claire, an artist from the Blue Hill area, is contributing a wall installation comprised of seven large photographic panels of oats at Horsepower Farm, with words visible in expanded pixels when viewed up close. Claire inserted the text from interviews with Paul Birdsall, along with articles Birdsall had written in the 1970’s about his experience as a “greenhorn” starting out with horses.
Of her work, Claire states, “I feel grateful that MFT asked me in 2013 to participate in an exhibit where I would create a work of art in relation to a local farm. I think of this piece as an oral history project. I spent time with Paul hearing how he came to Maine, started Horsepower Farm, helped create the Farmland Forever program at the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and later Maine Farmland Trust.”
Created as part of the Paint the Farm project (2015-16), Jude Valentine’s pastel and paint landscape – completed after visits to the old orchard at Buckle Farm in Unity – speaks with directness and energy through her use of color and line. Julie Crane’s dream-like encaustic inspired by Two Coves Farm (Harpswell) and Lou Schellenberg’s lively sketch of Dooryard Farms (Camden) are also included from this project.
Lynn Karlin’s brilliant photographic print on aluminum from 2012 is a classic still life of fruits and vegetables, reminiscent of the old Dutch Masters’ style, considering her lighting and composition. Karlin exhibited regularly with MFT Gallery over the past 10 years and her fine art prints of vegetables, fruits and farm products have drawn attention to Maine’s farm and food movement nationwide.
Other photographic prints include Lily Piel’s black and white images of Rob Johnston and Janika Eckert, Marada and Leah Cook, and Chellie Pingree, representing the Groundbreakers project (2012), featuring Mainers who have helped revive farming and agriculture and who remain committed to the cause. Bridget Besaw’s full color print from MFT’s book From the Land: Maine Farms at Work (2009) highlights the harvests at McDougal Orchards and Six Rivers Farm.
Jacinda Martinez is contributing a fashionable, elaborate dress, styled after a project in 2015 (Fashion in the Raw), from otherwise discarded vegetable matter such as broccoli stalks, bean vines and bolted lettuce.
Robert Shetterly’s acrylic painting of Russell Libby is part of his Americans Who Tell the Truth series, which includes portraits and narratives that highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. Russell was executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) since 1995 and a founding board member of MFT.
Bill Toomey, MFT’s current CEO and President, stated, “Over the last 20 years Maine Farmland Trust’s accomplishments have been impressive. Since 1999, MFT has helped protect nearly 300 farms and keep over 60,000 acres of farmland in farming while supporting over 800 farm families. We are looking to build on our existing strong foundation and expand our impact to protect more farmland, create opportunities to connect new farmers to the land, increase and diversify farm business while also strengthening local communities and improving the health of our environment. The work that we are doing on the ground is reinforced with our celebration of agriculture through art at the gallery in Belfast and our growing partnership with artists and creative community in Maine and beyond.”
Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is located at 97 Main Street in Belfast and open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The exhibit runs from August 19- October 11. Artist talks at 5 pm, followed by an Opening Reception 5:30-8 pm, on Friday August 23 during the Belfast Art Walk.
More information about the MFT Gallery can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org .