“Windfall Apples,” dye sublimation photograph on aluminum, by Lynn Karlin
“Windfall Apples,” dye sublimation photograph on aluminum, by Lynn Karlin
This exhibit, billed as a retrospective selection of works shown over the last 10 years, showcasing founders, members and protected farms, features works by Avy Claire, Julie Crane, Lynn Karlin, Leslie Moore, Jacinda Martinez, Lily Piel, Lou Schellenberg, Rob Shetterly, Jude Valentine, and still more.

Maine Farmland Trust is an organization with a deeply meaningful mission: to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future of farming in Maine. Its goal is to revitalize Maine’s rural landscape by keeping agricultural lands working and helping farmers, and their communities, thrive.

The universality of nutritious food raised with care, that’s life itself. Local sustenance and knowing where your food comes from, that’s the backbone of health and calm. Responsible care and cultivation of land, that’s a way of life so ancient and true that connecting with it has inspired countless generations. Acknowledgment and support for the dedicated people who commit to farming, that strengthens the heart and spirit of us all.

It’s not an easy life, but it has its rewards — a hardscrabble honest living, creation of community through feeding community, preserving an evolving way of life that has been central to Maine for centuries. This is what Maine Farmland Trust has been doing for the past 20 years, with great success.

What’s art got to do with it? Frankly, art has to do with everything useful and meaningful in this sweet world. Art is stories, touch, invention, problem solving, love, looking, seeing, telling in a thousand thousand ways — as many ways as there are you and me. Farming is a kind of miracle when you think about it. The rocky, muddy earth beneath our feet, with our care, provides an entire planet with life. How simple, how easy to forget, how profound. How artful.

MFT has had an art gallery for 10 years, inspired to tell the stories of our Maine earth and her caretakers, the people right here next door who feed us. How can we acknowledge this debt? Art begins to find ways to say it.

In Avy Claire’s seven-panel photographic work, “Oats,” the words from hours of conversations with Penobscot farmer and MFT co-founder the late Paul Birdsall are digitally immersed in large close-ups of oats on the stalk, creating a nearly invisible hum of dialog about raising oats and horses, a life well lived. Subtle, powerful, stirring.

Lynn Karlin’s gorgeously composed and lit photograph “Windfall Apples” is a “memento mori,” a reflection on mortality and the transient nature of all earthly things. Rooted in 17th-century Dutch chiaroscuro, with its bold contrasts of light and dark, her picture models and accentuates the drama of a still life of fallen apples, plucked mushrooms, broken hydrangea blossoms, even rotting fruit. Ahh, ephemeral existence, how we love thee!

In Julie Crane’s “Another Coracle,” a black-faced sheep stands outside of a fenced pasture, inscrutable, tense with skittish awareness, ready to bolt, while a rowboat and its oars rise separately into the air and float above its head. The artist says, “It is a marvel to me how much care is given to supply contentment of life to these creatures. I couldn’t help but wonder if there is ever time to put a little boat in the water and drift out on a hot day over the sparkling blue sea.”

In Jacinda Martinez’s “Broccoli Raab and Agretti, Decay,” a skirt and bodice of dried natural fibers models high (but gone tomorrow) fashion on a simple wooden dress form, a stand-in for you yourself. One could wear this, but only for a green, quick moment while full of the “Waters of March,” the bossa nova song where Antonio Carlos Jobim sings, “The oak when it blooms, a fox in the brush, the knot in the wood, the song of a thrush. The wood of the wind, a cliff, a fall, a scratch, a lump, it is nothing at all.”

Dear Reader, you have no excuse if you miss this show. It is nutritious.

Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is at 97 Main Street, Belfast.