Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Weeks. Two Shows.

I have just wrapped up my project to paint the organic farms of the Snoqualmie Valley. Because this project was supported by three different grant agencies I am writing reports about how everything went, what I learned and how the public benefitted from my work. These are thought provoking questions.

I set out to explore my emotional response to the farm landscape - an environment I imagined to be inspiring and nurturing. What more positive and joyful expression of the human condition than growing  food in a gentle and sustainable way? In fact I found this to be more than true! My time sitting in farm fields painting the gorgeous colors around me was more than inspirational. It was a dream and nourishing to my heart. (It was also literally nourishing when I got to take home vegetables). This painting, created in the studio, shows the difference between the flat sunny farm land and the shady wild salmon creek restoration on Full Circle Farm.

What did I learn? I learned that farmers are the hardest workers I can imagine. I learned that farm fields are flat and do not necessarily provide interesting compositions for paintings. I learned that the vegetables of mixed farming are extraordinarily varied and fascinating in shape, color, texture and beauty.

So the direction I ended up wanting to explore is to paint the individual plants, rather than to try to describe the whole farm. I have already started a new series of giant vegetables, all growing in the ground before harvest. They are amazing shapes and characters. It is so exciting. Here I am looking cold at the farmer's market with my new and unfinished painting of giant vegetables.

How did this project benefit the public? Because one grant came from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs I arranged to show my work in Seattle at Ballard Farmer's market (and earlier in the year at Seattle Tilth's Harvest Fair). I brought my images of the farms into the city to connect urban people with the sources of their food.

Another grant came from King County's 4Culture so I exhibited my paintings in the farm community that inspired them. Miller's in Carnation will be displaying my work until April allowing people who live near and work on the farms to see their environments described through art.

I also got support from Artist Trust who are amazing. Granting agencies don't just give us money, they give us a pat on the back and tell us that the work we do is valued and we are not crazy. It's been a grand year.