“Shilling for the fellow who brings the sheep in. Shilling for the fellow who milks the herd. Shilling for the fellow with a wife for keeping. How do we feed love on a farmboy’s wages?”  — XTC

 

With the possible exceptions of poetry and philosophy, there are few occupations less likely to provide one with a good and regular income than art.

Art is a clarion call heeded by those with the need to express themselves in uniquely personal and yet somehow universal ways, undeterred by struggle.

The hardships of running a successful small farm in the era of industrial agricultural conglomerates are well documented. But some local growers carry on, providing provisions for their local communities, and by doing so, remain significant social touchstones.

With an understanding of hard work and the inherent physicality of their endeavors, kinship between the artist and the farmer is a natural.

The sculptor and sower are brethren.

Presently, farming and art coexist as the Alderbrook Farm in Dartmouth. Owned by Allen and Nancy Manley, the Alderbrook is a “century farm,” designated as a farm that has been continuously owned by one family for 100 years or more. It has been running since 1898.

With the enthusiastic support of the Manleys, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth sculpture professor Eric Lintala has supervised the installation of 13 site-specific student sculptures at the bucolic Alderbrook, alongside the yellow clapboard farmstand, barns and henhouses. Lintala also display his own “Gulls and Crows,” fabricated of fiberglass.

The students have approached the project with much respect for the rustic atmosphere of the farm and the woodlands that surround it. With works ranging from the comical to the majestic, the sculptures never veer thematically far from the pastoral.

Inside the farmstand store, dangling from the ceiling near the baskets of squash, jars of local honey and fresh eggs is Devin Messenger’s “Worm Apple Pie Anyone?” Constructed from borosilicate glass, foam, cement and steel, it a basketball-sized bright red apple from which a worm pokes out, as green and defiant as the Incredible Hulk.

Not far from a coop that houses Aegis, a much-adored beautiful peacock and his two peahen harem, sits a well-crafted steel and copper version by Melony Poirier, called simply “Peacock.” Even in near monochromaticity, she captures the imagined vanity of the bird.

“Unseasoned” by Jess Stephens is a white wooden structure, that despite its name, and perhaps because it is December, evokes thoughts of the holiday season: it appears as a hybrid of artificial Christmas tree and oversized menorah.

Julie Bardon’s “Here Comes the Sun” (steel, paint and mixed media) is a handsome interpretation of a sunflower, vivid yellow and green; while an untitled work by Kylie Johnson featuring a red wheelbarrow and white chickens gives three-dimensionality to the famous poem by William Carlos Williams.

The punningly titled “24 Carrot” by George Carmo features gigantic painted Styrofoam carrot tops, protruding from the soil itself. It is perfectly fun.

Stephanie Mysiuk-Bissen displays two animal inspired sculptures at the farm proves herself a sculptor of great skill, with a particularly good sensibility for placement, understanding the importance of specificity in the “site-specific.”

Her “Decay,” a powerful depiction in steel of a great antlered beast (moose, stag?) stands atop a hill, gazing across the farm. He is the dying king of all he sees.

In a barn, Mysiuk-Bissen’s “Captured” is a life-sized owl in mid-swoop. Made of wire and painted aluminum, the raptor hovers from a rafter, while real starlings, sparrows and songbirds fly by. The placement is perfection.

The exhibition also features work by Giselle Goldrick, Clarice Lemay, St. George Tucker Aufranc, and Samantha Brun.

“Sculpture at Alderbrook Farm” is on display at Alderbrook farm, 1213 Russells Mills Road, Dartmouth through Dec. 15.

 

Don Wilkinson is a painter and art critic who lives in New Bedford. Contact him at Don.Wilkinson@gmail.com. His reviews run each week in Coastin’.