Historically, the drive to explore has opposed to the desire to conserve land. After all, it takes a very conscientious explorer not to alter a landscape while passing through. Senior Evan Farley's current exhibit—located in the Fishbowl Gallery of the Visual Arts Center—not only reconciles the ideas of exploration and conservation, but beautifies the eventual union of these two ideas.
With the support of a Rusack Coastal Studies Fellowship, Farley spent his summer channeling his love of architecture and design into oil paint, the results of which he titled "Reviving Local Structures and Farming Initiatives: A Structural Analysis in Paint."
Examining the uses of historical structures for fresh purposes, which buttress the local farming community, Farley scrutinzed his subjects through the impressively diverse lenses of sustainability, sociology, history and the visual arts.
In this way, he was himself an explorer of both his medium and the local landscape, as well as a conserver of structural integrity and character through his visual chronicle.
The pieces in Farley's exhibit range from four and a half inch squares to canvases that measure five by six feet, evading homogeny in both material and style.
"I used tile, plexi, canvas and watercolor paper because this whole project was about exploring," said Farley. "As I wanted to explore different styles in paint, I also wanted to explore different media."
Narrowing his study of sustainable structure to two Maine farms in particular, Farley focused on Crystal Springs in Brunswick and Sparrow Farm in Pittston. He chose Crystal Springs for use of a World War II Quonset hut, and Sparrow Farm for its being the sight of Maine's first solar thermal greenhouse. As the artist ventured into the local landscape, beginning with watercolor sketches en plein air, he sought inventive ways of depicting what he encountered.
In describing "Overview," a multi-frame landscape, Farley said, "Again, the notion of exploring comes into play here when I wanted to do something that I hadn't done yet in the summer. I had seven square canvases and I thought they would work well in an elongated piece."
Talking to farmers about the process, structure and production of a farm was a large part of Farley's project. As he studied the natural textures, shape, and colors surrounding him, the farmers' work engaged both the land and built structures.
"I did try to depict the relationship of man-made with nature in many of my pieces," said Farley.
"Sparrow Shed," which depicts an eclectic incubation shed for chickens made from found materials, exemplifies this relationship.
"I was trying to portray how this piece-made building almost grows out of the landscape with the combination of salvaged materials," Farley said.
The farmers' endeavor to conserve both natural and historical structures parallels Farley's efforts to seek out and depict such sights. As both explorers and conservers, they seek what is latent in the environment that it may be preserved. Perhaps the most striking of Farley's pieces is "Silo," done primarily in an orange base that is hidden (or latent) in his other work.
"As my summer progressed, I found myself painting more abstractly whether that was in form or in color...through exploring color palettes, my colors came out the way they did," said Farley. "The orange that you see is the underpaint that I did for all my paintings... When I got to the point in the painting that you see in the gallery, I realized that I didn't need to go any further to achieve what I wanted to portray."
Farley reflected that his journey led him from the "macro to the micro." He moved from emphasis on complete structure to the illumination of details that might otherwise be lost, such as paint peeling at the corner of a beehive.
Reflecting on the evolution of his work, Farley concluded, "If I were asked at the beginning of the summer, I would have never said that I would be painting more abstractly by the end of it. Instead of trying to replicate what I saw, I was able to create my own atmosphere or express how the site made me feel through the manipulation of color, form or both."