(Belfast, ME) During the summer of 2019, six visual artists, one academic writer, one poet, one performance artist, and one gardener lived and worked together at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson, Maine. This collection of creatives were part of Maine Farmland Trust’s (MFT’s) Fiore Art Center residency program. All artists were selected by a team of jurors based on their work’s connection to agriculture or the environment. The Virtual 2019 Fiore Residents Exhibit is a sampling of the work created during the residents’ time at the Center, where they explored relationships with the land, cycles of agriculture and the seasons, and new depths of creativity.

About the Artists and the Exhibit

Two artists utilize mixed media in very different ways. Mildred Bachrach’s work reflects upon the state of the earth and stewardship of the land, using cloth, paper, draped moss, and repetitive design work. Tracey Cockrell’s unique pressed vegetable papyrus contain handmade speakers that transmit recorded sounds; the vegetables were harvested from the Center’s garden, while the sounds were captured both on-site and during visits to nearby farms.

Genevieve Cohn’s bright, bold figurative acrylic paintings create a narrative of women working on the land, alone and together, whereas Eleanor Conover’s large scale work — started outside on unstretched canvas and continued in the studio — portrays a geometric abstract landscape of cut or shaped stone, implying visible marks of human use on the environment.

Sonja Birthisel, academic writer, shares her detailed research on weed management and climate change along with her “Dance Your PhD” video, a spontaneous collaboration with fellow residents and friends which illustrates her dissertations’ key concepts. Michelle Menting’s poetry considers the bucolic and the pastoral, as well as the connection (or disconnection) between human and non-human beings in such environments.

In her small oil paintings of intimate settings in the local countryside, Tessa O’Brien’s bold brushwork, use of color and emphasis on light are a delightful contrast of styles with j. e. paterak’s delicate and detailed gouache paintings of local flora on black paper.

Country songwriter Sara Trunzo illuminates real and raw stories from rural Maine in song. In this exhibit she presents song lyrics written while in residence and a video of her song “Food and Medicine,” a poignant acoustic arrangement of hard decisions, strength and perseverance in times of scarcity.

Laurie McDonnell, resident gardener, shares a vivid photograph of sunflowers basking in the garden and her field notes about deepening relationships with herself, the land and its inhabitants.

The gallery is currently not open to the public due to COVID-19, however the exhibit will be displayed virtually through the MFT Gallery website through July 2, 2020. The opening reception, with artist talks, will be held online on Friday, May 22 from 5:00 to 6:00 pm. Please see our website for further details and to RSVP for the online reception. You can also check Facebook for art and updates and follow the MFT Gallery on Instagram (@mftgallery).

About the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center

The Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm is a program of Maine Farmland Trust that actively connects the creative worlds of farming, conservation and the arts. The purpose of the Fiore Art Center is to stimulate and advance the dialogue between human and environment. The Center hopes to instill passion for preservation through the arts, create awareness and build community – by hosting exhibitions and public educational events, through research and application of ecologically sustainable farming practices and by offering residencies for artists, writers and academics on a historic farm.

Maine Farmland Trust

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide nonprofit that works to protect farmland, support farmers and advance the future for farming. For more information, please visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.

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