Museum exhibits highlight artistic expressions of farming

Delving artistically into the complexities of farming, several exhibits are currently on display at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery.

Divided into three components The Farm Show – Seeding, Growing, Harvest runs through to Nov. 13. Each exhibition includes unique farming perspectives from Albertan artists. The artworks are infused with personal experience, family history, and cultural beliefs about farming.

For the ‘Seeding’ component, the artists explore the process of seeding in unique visual forms ranging from futuristic sculpture to photography to video. The exhibit also raises questions about genetic modification, representation versus reality, and interconnections and fluctuations in nature.

It will be on display until July 3 and features work from John Freeman, Cindy Jones, Alex Moon, Lyndal Osborne and Sally Smith.

“Most of this work is brand new,” explains curator Tanya Zuzak, adding that this gives the Museum the special privilege of being the first to display it. “All these artists are also so passionate – they all come from farming roots.”

Freeman’s expansive photography, consisting of three shots of the same stretch of land, is shown on one wall. The images show the gradual change from rich farmland to expansion of urban development that has taken over the space.

Osborne’s bold, colourful piece, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, consists of enlarged seedpods in the process of genetic modification. As Osborne explains in her artist’s statement, some of the pods are “seductive and beautiful” while others reflect an “element of the grotesque, suggesting a darker side to the shrinking of seed biodiversity. This hints at hidden dangers.”

Moon’s Unifarm is an “agricultural science-fiction narrative depicting the power struggle over agricultural freedom between two groups: the Uni-Farm Corporation, representing large industrial farming and the Real Food Alliance, representing the ethical and local food movements.”

Jones’ Steering Committee is a remarkably compelling piece offering a “cautionary statement addressing the possible consequences of genetic modification and controlled seed reproduction.”

Smith’s stunning Genetically Modified Seed Pods rounds out the fascinating section of the exhibit.

The other parts of The Farm Show – growing and harvesting – will be displayed later in the summer and into early fall respectively.

Farming Out Our Future runs through to Nov. 13 as well.

“What we were interested in was looking at the changes in agriculture in this area over the last 50 years,” explains Lorna Johnson, executive director of the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery. “There are also quite a number of artists in this area who base their practice on the family farm, and their work seems to be about those changes that are impacting farmers. It seemed like a good reason to put it all together and see what we could do.”

As the exhibit suggests, farmers and ranchers – people skilled at producing food – are fast becoming an endangered species. The question of who will own the countryside, live in, care for it or produce food from it is far from settled. Much of the pieces and artifacts are from the Museum’s own permanent collection.

Via superb photos, documents, video components and interactive displays, the exhibit all the more effectively lays out the issues.

Farming Out Our Future explores some of the changes that have had an impact on rural like in Alberta from 1950 to the present.

Meanwhile, a related event called ‘Does Farming Have a Future’ is set for May 25.

Featuring a panel including Dr. Roger Epp with the University of Alberta and local organic farmer Mike Kozlowski, the discussion runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Museum.

For more information, call 403-309-8405 or visit www.reddeermuseum.com.

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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