FOODshed: Art and Agriculture in Action at CR10 Arts

My 2014 exhibition FOODshed: Art and Agriculture in Action originated at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, NY. An updated version was recently on view in August/September 2015 at CR10 Arts, a few miles south of Hudson, NY. It was always my goal to travel the show to the Hudson Valley since many of the artists in the show live and work there as well as grow food on their own small farms.

CR10 Arts is in Columbia, County, an agricultural region with the now flourishing small town of Hudson where art, culture and food are thriving. CR10 is housed in a re-purposed 15,000 square foot concrete block building, constructed in 1954 for agricultural storage. Installing the show in this enormous space was a challenge for the artists since there is very little usable wall space, the building is mostly windows. But the exposed barn beams and simple wooden floors made a great backdrop for this show which was focused on sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and artists’ use of food as subject matter or medium.

The exhibition features artworks and inventive projects around agriculture and food that address farming as both activism and art form. Many of the artists in this exhibition are known for bringing community-specific issues into their work and are exploring the real-world implications of small-scale farming and raising community awareness about our food systems. The artists advocate for an organic, regional and local approach, which they are manifesting in their own lives and where the boundaries of real world and art completely disappear.

The Black Currant Jam by Joan Bankemper is an organic farming project at herBlack Meadow Barn in Warwick, NY to produce black currant jam. When Bankemper acquired the farm in 2008 there were 150 overgrown black currant bushes. She spent five years farming, pruning and learning the nuances of sustainably cultivating these “super food” plants. Black currants have the highest amount of antioxidants found in any fruit.

SHEEP FARM by Dan Devine is a living, self-sustaining installation exploring the issues of local production, bio-technology and questionable commercial practices. It began with five Rombouillet sheep and a shed enclosed in an electric fence with all the accoutrements and activities of a working farm. It will continue to develop and function as a living artwork and a studio in which new ideas will develop.

Ecoarttech (artists, Leila Nadir + Cary Peppermint ) presented OS Fermentation: Collaborative Hacks with Fruits, Vegetables, and Microbes, part of the artists’ new series of social sculptures, titled EdibleEcologies, which works collaboratively with local communities (human, bacterial, and ecological) to resuscitate historic food practices and facilitate recovery from a cultural memory disorder they call “industrial amnesia.”

Joy Garnett’s “Piss & Vinegar (art and ferment)” includes bottles of Garnett’s home-fermented red wine vinegar, labeled with an adaptation of a bee logo by Garnett’s maternal grandfather Dr. A.Z. Abushady (1892-1955) an influential poet, physician, bacteriologist, beekeeper, inventor, litterateur and publisher of an array of scientific, cross-cultural and poetry journals who lived and worked in England and Egypt.

Hudson Valley-based artists’ collective Habitat forArtists installation, A Necessary Re Course was one of its signature, temporary, reusable art studios. The studio was a growing shed for edible hydroponic greens and seed propagation, partnering with organizations including the Hudson Valley Seed Library, Obercreek Farm CSA,and Green Up.

Lenore Malen presented her 3-channel video installation, I Am The Animal,2010, which was filmed on site in the Hudson Valley. It features 9 beekeepers who have devoted their lives to their colonies. Their interviews are intercut with historical and found footage providing a crucial context for how we understand our relationship to these social insects.

Kristyna and Marek Milde presented a new installation titled Salt over Gold.The project adopts the esthetic and corporate language of an official VIP celebrity entrance with red carpet and a step and repeat wall to examine the key elements of the process that produces our daily essentials in contrast to pop and corporate culture. The artists interviewed local organic farmers to learn about their perspectives and the key elements of farming that the average consumer is unaware of
Taxonomy Transplanteda film by artist Peter Nadin created at his Old Field Farm in Greene County, NY. It was inspired and facilitated by the farm’s plants, livestock, products, activities, and landscape. Since he started farming in 1989, Nadin’s art practice has increasingly overlapped with the day-to-day responsibilities of the farm.

Earth Totems, First Swirlings, 2015, by Andrea Reynosa was a living permaculture earthwork, focused on spiral pattern forms in nature. These spirals inform the economy of design for the many dynamically productive Herb Spiralsshe has constructed on her SkyDog Farm in Narrowsburg, New York.

Jenna Spevack’s InsideOut House: Sonic Farmscape is a binaural audio installation embedded with sounds recorded by the artist while planting or harvesting food on her land in the western Catskills. Using simulated blindness to enhance the aural sense, visitors will hear pollinators, water, wind, and other important environmental collaborators needed for food production.

E.O.E for HUDSON: Equal Opportunity Eating, drawings by SusanLeibovitz Steinmanilluminate recent research for developing community-participatory EOE projects for Hudson’s public spaces to preserving the history of apples and apple trees in the Hudson Valley, and their importance for jobs, food, and fighting global warming and to develop low cost, creative and viable cottage industries based on local agriculture; and based on Permaculture design and philosophy. The apple is NY’s official state fruit. NY is the US second largest producer of apples.

Elaine Tin Nyo presented a video, JFK, 2014, a brief story from an American-born Basque farmer about her son’s understanding of the cycle of life. Life Is a Plate of Cherries, 2014 is an ebook presentation documenting Tin Nyo’s decade long project during the month of July, when she has been making sour cherry pies for her friends every day and sending messages to her Pie List about who ate them each day.

Since 2009, Tattfoo Tan has developed a series of activities to engage his local community on Staten Island and in greater New York City through sustainability actions that acknowledge the shortage of food on a global scale. S.O.S. stands for Sustainable Organic Stewardship, a pledge that Tan has taken to live more sustainably through hands on gardening, seed saving and sharing, and raising his own chickens. His art is a form of education of self and community through eco-actions that anyone can replicate. Ecoartspace has published his S.O.S. Action Guide.

Linda Weintraub’s installation Let Us Eat the Colors of Nature’s Spectrum consists of 56 foods harvested from her gardens in Rhinebeck NY and preserved through canning and arrayed according to the color continuum they suggest. Weintraub invites viewers to expand their interaction and consider that each of these alluring colors originated in the imperative of survival. Each tone and hue is resonant with energies from the sun, rain, wind, and soil. They were activated by bacteria and fungi, and crafted with enzymes, sugars, oils, minerals, and salts.

FOODshed was reviewed in Edible Hudson Valley and IMBY (in my backyard).

The Hudson Valley region stretches for 200 miles, from Westchester northward past Albany towards the upper part of the Hudson River. In 2007 the region had 5,326 farms operating 1,325 square miles of farmland. Nearly all of the region’s farms were owned by families and iniduals. There are now more farmers, especially more women and younger farmers, and more small farms than in 2002.

Recent years have seen an awakening to the importance of food and agriculture. The general public—and national media—are responding to the message that a consolidated, industrialized food system is detrimental to local economies, to natural resources, to public health, and to the quality of our food and our lives. The result has been a surge of interest in supporting regional, sustainable food systems that prioritize food quality, nutrition, environmental stewardship, and fair returns for farmers and farm workers. Access to farm-fresh products is indeed increasing: The numbers of CSAs and farmers markets have surged, and more mainstream distributors, retailers, and food service companies have begun to carry locally produced food. The central role of food in health—human, environmental, and community health—is being emphasized by educational projects across the country. More and more community groups are finding that food and farming are useful tools for empowerment. Federal, state, and city governments have noticed and are responding. We have a White House garden, First Lady Michelle Obama is promoting healthy food and local produce, the USDA created a Food Atlas to give researchers access to food-related information, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” is a farm-to-plate initiative of the USDA, and farms are being included in the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. New York State has a Food Policy Council, and New York City has become a leader and a hub of food-related advocacy. All of this activity creates a unique opportunity for farmers in the Hudson Valley. We are situated between two major metropolitan areas that offer rich policy arenas and robust markets. New York City is considered by many to be a global “food capital,” and many consumers in the New York metropolitan area are willing to pay more, if necessary, for high quality regional food. motion. This groundswell in public and policy activity gives the Hudson Valley a critical foundation on which to build an effective, enduring regional food system. (information from data thanks to Glynwood Farm, Cold Spring, NY)
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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

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