Marni Elyse Katz: Farm Project

July 17, 2012

Gallery owner/director Susie Nielsen, who earned an MFA from RISD, opened Farm Project Space + Gallery in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, five years ago after relocating from Portland, Oregon. In a gallery town that’s all about the artistic landscape, Nielsen has forged a contemporary art scene that’s absolutely flourishing.

When I asked her about it she acknowledged the difference, saying that Farm showcases “art about ideas rather than pictures capturing something you see.” While her audience is smaller (tourists looking for a reminder of their Cape vacation probably pass her by), she asserts that her patrons are faithful, checking in often and buying more than once. (Indeed, I’m personally guilty of these habits with purchases like this and this).

She also credits artist Julia Salinger, who has a space around the corner, with helping to bring contemporary artists to town. It’s a natural fit, really. Nielsen points out, “This is a place with such a rich history. Artists like Motherwell used to come here; it was an artist colony.” She continues, “Today, artists work alone, and connect on the Internet. We feel like there are so many young people doing art that is relevant to the times.”

I love Nielsen’s aesthetic, and the accessible manner in which she presents it. While the main gallery usually stages a solo show, the front room is a mix of artists she’s shown, along with ones she might be considering, plus a few less-expensive items like prints and contemporary ceramic pieces (no salt marsh pottery here). Here’s a closer look at what you’ll find at Farm.

On the Mac, below, a video of Tony Orrico creating a Human Spirograph drawing similar to the one hung at Farm’s recent exhibition In Our Wake. The framed drawing at the right is by Mitch Glassman.

Inside a flat file: Postcards from the past, including Field Test by May Tveit, in which the artist cited haystacks in and around Wellfleet.

Filmmaker/photographer David Kennedy popped by to show Nielsen images recovered from 1950s-era Ektachrome slides.

Brookyln-based artist MP Landis puts postage stamps directly on the back of each piece (mixed media on wood), and sticks them in the mail addressed to Farm.

An example from Jill Vasileff’s series A Mies is a Mies is a Mies, inspired by her experience growing up in a Mies van der Rohe house, and the play of sunlight. This piece is acrylic on board, but looks like encaustic from the many layers of paint and glossy finish. You can’t tell from the photo, but there are pink fluorescent paint drips along the edges. I’m currently coveting this piece.

Jill Vasileff, No. 05, from the series “A Mies is a Mies is a Mies.â€

The following works are from In Our Wake, curated by The Movement Party. The exhibition, which was mounted in Farm’s main gallery when I visited, captures human motion, both temporary and permanent, in drawings, collages, photography and video. It was part of the larger Fleet Moves dance festival that took place in town July 5–8.

Peter Scarbo Frawley‘s text-based works are Jumble-esque, encouraging the discovery of alternative meanings. Nielsen has more of his work–sayings pecked out on an old-fashioned typewriter–in the front room.

Contact Gonzo is a performance group that integrates image-making with performance, using point-and-shoot cameras to capture moments of contact between bodies.

Contact Gonzo, The First Man Narrative, digital prints from disposable camera.

The beautiful black and white prints from Michael Hart evoke an immediate of-the-moment feel that communicates the raw energy and emotion of dance.

Michael Hart, Zack and Michelle Rehearsing at the Manor #3, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2009, black and white exhibition in ink.

In Abigail Levine’s Slow Falls, three dancers used blue masking tape to record their movements on the side of a shingled building next to the gallery. Each dancer completed four falls over the course of 100 minutes; the longest lasted fifty, the shortest lasted five. Each line of tape marks one “fall.” Confused? Watch a video of the piece being performed last year at the Movement Research Festival in Brooklyn.

Slow Falls, created by Abigail Levine.

–Marni Elyse Katz

Marni Elyse Katz is a Boston-based writer and editor who covers style, art and design for a variety of sites and publications, including her own blog, Style Carrot.

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