I’ve been struggling with a more conceptual project for awhile and, as a result, not doing a lot of finished work. I decided to take a break do some paintings for the pure joy of painting. This is a landscape, near Altamont Orchards, that I drive through many times a week on my way home to Altamont. The light was so beautiful, I have to admit that I took a picture while driving. Luckily it’s a quiet road!
Last summer I was drawn to the Georgia O’Keefe show — Visions of Hawaii — at the NY Botanical Garden. It was interesting to see the work of a serious artist, painting as a guest of the Hawaii Pineapple Company. Though well received at the time, the work felt somewhat constrained and it seemed to me that it took her time to warm up to the subjects and the place. From the show, I moved on to the Conservatory, which completely captivated me, and I decided to do a series of paintings featuring exotic plants.
Of course life and art intervened. I had imagined setting up my easel in the conservatory but learned that they don’t allow that, so shuttled back and forth to take reference photos. I was also lucky to travel to Berkeley, California over the Christmas holiday and photographed many plants that are exotic to us growing quite happily all around.
By the time I began work on paintings for the Spencertown Garden Show, I had a treasure trove of reference photos and spent most of the winter huddled by the space heater in my frigid studio painting tropical plants. It also took me awhile to warm to the subject. I quickly learned that the most interesting thing about many tropical plants is the hidden worlds revealed through their leaves. But a garden show must have flowers, so I focused on those, keeping my images small. Maybe this winter I’ll come back to this warm place and paint the dramatic paintings that are waiting to burst into a larger format when I’m ready.
For more information, click here.
I write occasional book reviews for the wonderful website: knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com. The site is a treasure-trove of CSA sources, restaurant reviews from around the country, news, and links to all kinds of resources for eating local.
I encourage you to hop over and check out the review “in situ.” I think you’ll enjoy the journey.
I spent this past weekend at the Rotary Home Show in Saratoga. Traffic was fairly slow and on the second day I was working on a plan to weed out excess work so there would be less to transport at the end. My reveries were interrupted when a bright-eyed woman stopped and complimented me on my colorful work. She actually looked carefully at every single painting and then walked away. The third time she came back, she asked to purchase these two paintings. As I wrapped them up, I joked that as an artist I couldn’t afford to buy art. She replied that she couldn’t either, but her mother had passed away and she had decided to use her legacy on art. “She loved art and I know that she would approve.”
If we were to begin at the beginning, I would tell you that my mother loved poppies. They seemed so exotic and looked like they’d be hard to grow, when in fact, they thrived in her sandy soil. She learned to propagate them from tiny shoots that formed once the flowers faded and the plants died back in the summer. Sun-loving poppies, with their deep tap roots, were out of the question when I moved into my very old, Civil War-era house with its heavy clay soil and dark shade from overgrown maples and fir trees.
But one summer, in a neglected lot, next to an abandoned house up the road, I spied these poppies growing in profusion in thigh-high grass. The house was built by the same person who built mine. His story is lost to time as will be the house, which has been abandoned by our Village and the larger town. Some years ago, they purchased it from the tax rolls with the hope of preserving history, but then dithered so long that decay now seems irreversible.
My dear friend and neighbor loved those poppies too. We had long conversations one summer about where they came from and if they could be transplanted into her sunnier gardens. Sadly, she passed away before she could sneak over and harvest the tiny new shoots. Now she, too, is lost to time and yet these poppies come back, every year, defying the odds and triumphing over the chaos of loss and decline.
Happy to report that Merriman & Pfister, a fabulous gift shop in Delmar Corners is now selling a complete line of Farm Share Studio cards and prints, including a number of nicely priced framed prints.
Other places to find cards:
Bella Fleur in Altamont
The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza
Indian Ladder Farms near Altamont
Albany Institute History and Art
10% of all artist proceeds are donated to organizations that support farmland conservation and family farms.
The last few months have been a whirlwind, with the pace continuing into the holidays. This summer I volunteered to work with a wonderful group of progressives on Pat Strong’s NYS Senate campaign. Though Pat won our town, she lost to a well-entrenched incumbent. Thankfully the NYS Senate flipped, so it will no longer be the place where anti-corruption legislation goes to die.
It seems like the campaign ended just as the fall shows ramped up. Once I get through next week, I’m looking forward to settling down and getting some painting done! Here’s a rundown of where to find my work over the next couple of months..
The Saratoga Federal Credit Union has a small gallery space that’s managed by the wonderful organization, Saratoga Arts. About 12 paintings will be on display during business hours.
Dates: Now until January 4.
The Saratoga Arts Members Show is a wonderfully eclectic collection of work. My entry this year is this landscape of willows vibrating with color. My mother always pointed to these neon branches as a sure sign of coming spring.
Dates: November 10-January 4. Opening reception December 1.
A great place to shop for holiday gifts for creative people, Arlene’s Art Materials now has a rotating schedule of shows at their R Gallery. I’m thrilled to share a mix of old and new paintings/local food and landscapes through the month of December.
Dates: December 6-29. Show opening December 6 from 5:30-7:30.
Just came back from Merriman&Pfister, a wonderful gift shop in Delmar. They will be carrying a full line of Farm Share Studio cards and prints. Besides my work, there’s an incredible array of beautiful holiday merchandise by local artisans!
Just dropped off this painting, You Are Here at the Albany Center Gallery Member Show which runs from December 7 - January 19. The opening reception is Dec. 7 from 5-8 pm.
The days are suddenly shorter and there’s a cold wind blowing in from the north, just in time for Fall shows. This year I spent the winter, spring, and summer in the studio. It seemed super productive at the time — but now the walls are empty. Ten paintings are on their way to the ASA Landscapes for Landsake Show and I’ll be sharing two small landscapes at the Spencertown Academy regional show. Here are the invitations. Another small landscape will be donated to the Silent auction at the MHLC Gala. Would love to see you there!
Each month I get my happy chickens and eggs from Longfied Farm, a sheep farm near Altamont. Nestled in a small barn near the house is a huge stone oven, where owner, Gary Kleppel bakes the bread that they sell at the Delmar Farmers Market. Now a full-time farmer, Gary recently retired from teaching Ecology at the State University at Albany. HIs book, Emergent Agriculture, is a hopeful look at the link between small farms and sustainability.
Gary’s not the kind of guy to float conspiracy theories or embrace food fads, so I was stunned by his recent blog post, which links gluten insensitivity to Roundup. Who knew that Roundup (or glyphosate) is widely used to dry wheat before it is processed into flour? What this means is that every commercial wheat product you eat, from crackers and pizza dough to pasta, has been sprayed by glyphosphate. It doesn’t get washed off because the point is to dry the grain. Glyphosphate can interfere with digestion and has been linked to a whole raft of common and increasing human health issues. Is it possible that the reason for the surge in gluten intolerance is not modern versus ancient grains, but instead the invisible chemical stew that surrounds us?
Get the whole story here: Are you really gluten intolerant? Or have you just been eating too much Roundup lately?
I was approached about a portrait commission during a recent show. I hesitated because I don't really "do" portraits. I had painted a genre-type painting that included a figure, which a lot of people seemed to like, but I wasn't very confident about capturing a likeness where it mattered. I reviewed a lot of snapshots and spent some time with a charismatic young girl whose ideal pet is an African hissing cockroach. Eventually we settled on a photo of the girl feeding Birdeelee, a rescue who had become imprinted and would hang out on the patio waiting to be fed.
I struggled with just about everything. Getting the head to be that of a young child. Dealing with the background, which needed to have some reality but also needed to "step back" to give focus to the figure. The light in the photo was indirect, so I didn't have any obvious drama. As a result, I looked at a lot of impressionist portraits along with John Singer Sergeant -- a did the best I could. Now on to landscapes!
August 1, 2018
A celebrated organic farmer of peaches, grapes, and nectarines in California, David Mas Masumoto is also a gifted storyteller and chronicler of the considerable challenges and rewards of organic farming. Masumoto’s memoir, Wisdom of the Last Farmer, Harvesting Legacies From The Land (Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2009), is a tribute to his father, whose dogged persistence created the “perfect peach” celebrated by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. It wasn’t an easy path.
To read more visit the book reviews at: knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com
If you're an avid baker, wanting to take your bread baking to the next level or perhaps a locavore looking for the next food frontier in taste . . . or if you’re simply interested in learning more about the grains we take for granted, then Sara Pitzer’s Homegrown Whole Grains, Grow, Harvest & Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn & More(Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, 2009) deserves a place in your library.
To read more visit the book reviews at: knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com
I can remember the moment a fresh local ingredient changed my life as a consumer. It was an apple, sampled from the tree during an excursion to Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, near Albany in upstate New York. Besides being crisp and juicy, the apple’s flavor exploded and then lingered on my tongue, like nothing I had ever experienced. It led me on a path to eating almost exclusively from farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs: fresh and local became a guidepost.
Amy Halloran’s aha moment was an oatmeal ganache cookie bar made from oats and wheat grown near where she lived in upstate New York’s Rensselaer County. She set out to find the source of the flavor and fresh grainy taste. The New Bread Basket, How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf (Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2015) is the outcome of her quest to investigate the regional grain revival happening in New York State and New England.
To read the full review and other great stories, visit KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom.com
I don't know why it took me so long to start painting outdoors. I love landscapes, but most often these days I experience them from the car. I take tons of photos and have been using them for reference for a couple of yours. Still, I knew I was missing something besides mosquitoes, sunburn, and ticks. I needed a push to get started and signed up for a Plein Air painting workshop with Debra Bayly from the Arts Center in Troy. In the week leading up to the class I found my collapsible easel and toned some canvas boards in various shades of ocher. I managed to fit all my gear into a giant IKEA bag and was ready to meet the small band of intrepid painters at Peebles Island in Cohoes, NY.
Maybe it was the perfect non-humid summer weather. Maybe it was the big old trees with pools of cool shade or the water around the edges of the landscape with 19th century industrial buildings, bridges, and boats -- but I felt like I was in the midst of an Impressionist painting and my brush responded accordingly. I really like these little paintings and I'm looking forward to seeing where this new path leads.
When I started this project, I had a few paintings and a lot of questions. Was it possible to exclusively eat locally sourced food? Who were the people making my food? What was the best way to handle these fresh, new ingredients? How could I help surface this trend in the Capital region of upstate New York? And then, at a more personal level, would I be able to make art that mattered to me -- and others -- without getting bored or distracted? In a world of sadness, could I make art that would make people smile?
The food questions, quite honestly, have been answered by others more qualified than me. I'm a pretty good home cook, but I use the internet like everyone else to find out how long to cook an heirloom chicken or what to do with unusual fruits and vegetables like quince and kohlrabi. I now have favorite farmers at the Schenectady Greenmarket and e-mail subscriptions with other, smaller farm entrepreneurs. The information is out there and I wasn't doing a great job keeping up the blog because it didn't feel like I was adding anything new.
So, from now on, I'm going to focus more on my art. I'll share what's new... and maybe some of the things I'm struggling with. I'll try to post updates on shows and events. You can also see what's going on by following Farm Share Studio on Facebook and Instagram. I'll continue to donate 10% of all my sales (less tax and commissions) to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the American Farmland Trust, and the Agricultural Stewardship Association. I'll also continue to look for ways to bolster our local markets and community.
I’ll admit to skipping over the philosophy section when browsing bookstores. On the book buffet, philosophy sits there next to seitan or black-eyed peas – virtuous, yes, but surrounded by more enticing, tastier options. But Philosophers at Table, On Food and Being Human (Reaktion Books, London, UK, 2016) by two American professors of Philosophy, Raymond D. Boisvert of Siena College in the Capital Region of upstate New York and Lisa Heldkeof Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, Minnesota is a welcome surprise.
To continue the buffet metaphor, this book is kale salad with quinoa, sweet potatoes, and pepitas — bright and packed with ideas but readable and not densely written. The authors set out to challenge the common separation of soul and body, a central theme of modernity with roots in the Enlightenment. It’s a big project in a small book packed with sparkling prose and new ideas.
Philosophers at Table allows us to see food as a way to restore the connections within ourselves and between others. You can read the review at the wonderful website: KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom.
One of my favorite art shows of the year is the Landscape for Landsake show to benefit the Agricultural Stewardship Association in Washington County. It takes place at Maple Ridge near Cambridge, NY from Saturday, October 7 through Monday, October 9. Half of all artist proceeds benefit this great organization, which directly supports farmland conservation in Washington County, NY.
To celebrate my participation I've decided to offer a 20% discount on all my original paintings on my ETSY.com site during the month of October. During the sale, I'll donate half of sale proceeds to the Agricultural Stewardship Association. Please note that unsold paintings from the show will be relisted on October 10.
It's been awhile! But though I haven't been posting, I have been busy. I'll update my paintings soon, but in the meantime, here's a book review I did for a wonderful site: KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom. I recently helped the publisher clean up expired links and was amazed at the depth and breadth of local food coverage. Looking for a CSA near you (even if you live in Bozeman, MT)? Check. Traveling and want to find a good farm-to-table restaurant or farmers market? Check. So I was thrilled when asked to contribute a book review.
Reviewing Sasha Martin's memoir, Life from Scratch, was a joy -- starting with the very first page. She's an engaging writer with a passion for food. She writes a successful blog, globaltableadventure.com, which started when she decided to expand her horizons in middle America and cook a meal a week from every country in the world. But though the memoir that grew out of the blog, it is much deeper and more meaningful. It became an intensely personal exploration of childhood trauma, confusion, and loss. You can read my review HERE.
I live in a picture-postcard village, surrounded by a patchwork of agricultural landscape bordered to the west by fossil-laden, steep cliffs of Devonian limestone. The softly rolling land below the cliffs was once the edge of glacial lake, whose ground is a slurry of smooth round rocks encrusted in hard clay. Nevertheless, the region was settled by German tenant farmers in the 1700s and the fabric of history is still preserved in Dutch barns, small farms, and family names. Though the area seems to be turning inexorably into real estate, it is still possible to ride and walk through open countryside, much as people did in the nineteenth century.
This painting is of chicory encroaching on the fields of a sheep farm on Meadowdale Road in Guilderland, New York. I love the color of chicory, its stiff, yet random growth pattern, and the fact that the flowers bloom early today and then fade, before reblooming tomorrow.
For some time I've been wanting to start painting landscapes. Having my small food paintings off site for a couple of months has given me the clean slate I needed in the studio to start working in a new direction. The painting will be shown at the Albany Center Gallery members' show from January 6 to February 17, 2017. The opening reception will be January 6 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Since I started eating closer to home, I've had a great time getting to know the farmers who grow my food. I've become more curious about the history and, I suppose, anthropology of local food. After finishing Everett Rau's memoir, Stand Tall, I still stop by to chat with him and his wife, Peg, in their hilltop farmhouse. During one of our visits, Peg brought out a treasure trove of handwritten cookbooks from her mother, grandmother, and grandmother-in-law, along with her own box of recipe cards, which she began the year she married Ev.
My hands trembled when I opened the old notebooks, carefully turning their food-stained pages, brittle with age. Determined to preserve them, I carefully scanned the notebooks and cards and sat with Peg as she regaled me with stories of Grange dinners and favorite family recipes. At 93, Peg doesn't cook anymore, but she is passionate about nutrition and can still recall the first time she tried many of the recipes in her collection.
Heirloom Recipes focuses on a handwritten cookbook begun by Everett's grandmother, Sarah Ogsbury, in 1891. We know the year because she used a complimentary journal from a thread company that is stamped with the date. Throughout the book is elegant ink penmanship from Sarah, who was a teacher, interspersed with clumsier pencil recipes from young women. The girls' writing is in several different hands, presumably her daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. When Peg found the book in a drawer after she married Everett, she also found newspaper clippings, which she pasted, as if in a scrapbook. She says she never saw her mother-in-law, Margaret, use the cookbook, because Margaret had "all the recipes in her head."
The second half of the book features a selection of favorites from Peg's own recipe box, including many of her mother-in-law Margaret's that Peg wrote down while they cooked together.
Bump's Apple Sauce Cake
One of the best parts of finishing the book is having time to try some of these vintage recipes. Most of the old recipes lack cooking instructions, so it's often useful to back them up by googling vintage recipe sites. This applesauce cake was pretty straightforward. To save a step, we purchased homemade applesauce from Indian Ladder Farms near Altamont. The lard came from the baking section at Hannaford supermarket. We made a half-size recipe to test and cooked the cake in an 8" square cake pan for about 25 minutes. The result was moist and spicy. When I took a couple pieces over to Ev and Peg they said it reminded them of their early married days.