Monday, March 22, 2010

Art that lives on the land

My good friend Joan O'Hanrahan over in Lisdoovarna Ireland teaches at the Burren College of Art. She recently took her students out to draw in the forest. That lit a fire under my ass to say the least. I became inspired thinking about art, land, and everyday life on the farm, and what the function of art has on our rural landscapes. I am pretty sure Picasso said that "art brushes away the dust from everyday life."
The art that is generated on the farm is always sourced from the bi products of any given farm project, or daily activity. The bi products become your medium( bailing twine, cut up fence wire, plastic tubes, scrap wood, old house paint.) Your subject task is really simple, incorporate design into a space that you occupy everyday. Brush away some of the dust. Secondly,  get your art to accomplish something for your farm: A hay manger has a design that enhances it, or a feeding area has its structure enhance by a wire line, the stock tank that has copper tubing emulating a whirlpool. Its function can represent a set of beliefs that govern your farm, your underlying stewardship philosophies.
Symbols are consistently present in this world of work, rest, eat, sleep, work. They are simple.  The time and energy that it takes to conceive of a symbol, and apply it in a given space is minimal. They represent the most fundamental elements of your life that you worship. (flowers, sun, grass, leaves) All images become symbols representing the parts of life and farming that keeps you getting out of bed in the morning, and doing it all again. They are the images that carry through spring, summer cropping, harvest, storage, winter survival, and spring rebirth.

At some point in Art history, artistic objects transformed from an object that you interacted with in your life to an object that was representational of cerebral processing. Art objects became thinking rather than objects.  A subtler point than just utility, and allows farm art to circumnavigates the Art vs. Craft debate. 
Creating art on the landscape has aided in alleviating some of the feelings of contempt that seep into life as a farmer. The feelings that,"some one else should do this" or " I am too high and mighty to be doing lowly task of shoveling shit" Contempt has been a driving force separating people from the act of growing food, and keeping animals. Art is a healer, working at the root of the feelings of contempt that have divorced us from the land.  It helps make us feel that we are absolutely unique in our decision to be connected to the land. There are images and designs all over our door yard and landscape that help to state our uniqueness in the loudest voice possible.

            Lucky for the artisan farmer that people/consumers are deciding to reconnect with land and food. The people and place are taking a front seat ahead of brand, label and ingredient. A farm offers a place and a person. A super market offers brands and competition in a mostly chaotic overstressed environment that has a tendency to beat humans into a dulled down state of consumer compliance.  "Place" and experience are becoming important to consumers because they want to know that the "place" where their food comes from is being cared for. And in a small sense that then, they the consumer, are also contributing to the care of that place. The sense of place is reinforced by the experience that the consumer has at the farm.  The experience is a visual, audio, and best of all the wonderful smells of mowed grass, fresh compost, aerated soils, and running bubbling brooks and sweet cows. Art functions as the most effective catalyst for creating a sensory experience when it is generated by the person/farmer who lives in the most intimate relationship with the land. The consumer gets to share in that intimacy when he/she eats. It is said that eating is one of the most intimate things we do.

      I have dusted off the oil paints, laid my tools in a line, and accessed the materials that are around. Ten acres are going to be the paper, canvas, and piece of clay, metal, ect.... let the games begin.

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