The exhibit “Compost Paintings: The Cycle of Life” opens Friday June 1 with a reception from 5:30-8 p.m. at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, 97 Main Street in Belfast. The show will feature a range of new works by Maine artist Ed Nadeau, including oils on canvas and compost drawings. In addition, Belfast artist Vincent Abaldo will create an interactive installation in the window of the gallery commenting on the same theme. The exhibit will be on display until July 11.
For a fine-art painter to devote a whole body of work to the subject of compost is certainly pushing the edge. But Ed Nadeau likes it that way. “Lots of art is rather safe these days,” he says. “Tough art has taken a back seat.”
Nadeau sees his compost paintings as metaphors about the cycle of life. Reminiscent of Monet’s Haystacks, yet distinctively different in content, they catalyze a dialogue about death and rebirth. In a culture that glorifies “progress” and likes to skip over our inevitable vulnerability, Nadeau’s art is a voice that echoes Wendell Berry’s:
To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and of various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things.
Excerpt from Wendell Berry’s Enriching the Earth
From this perspective, composting is not only a transformative process that takes what has died and recycles it into nourishment for new life, it’s an almost reverent act which reminds us of our place in the circle of life. “Only a people who longed to cheat death would neglect to build soil,” Berry says.
For Nadeau, there is a very personal connection to the death-rebirth symbolism conveyed by the Compost series. “My father died when I was fifteen,” he recounts. “It made me realize that come hell or high water, I should do what I really love – and that is painting. This idea of regeneration – the cycle of things dying and going back into the earth to help new things grow, is a real connection to my dad. It’s a metaphor.”
Ed Nadeau is a native of Maine whose paintings depict the land and people of his home state in various incarnations. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1980 with his BFA in painting and from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1986 with his MFA in painting. Assistant Professor Nadeau teaches 2d-design, painting and drawing at the University of Maine in Orono and has taught advanced courses in Landscape Painting, Figure Drawing, Nature Drawing and Materials and Techniques for Painters.
Nadeau’s paintings have been exhibited widely, including at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland Art Place, School 33 Art Center, the Park School, The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, the University of Maine in Orono, Whitney Art Works in Portland, Maine, and the Drawing Center, NYC. Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth currently represents his paintings. His works are held in many private collections both nationally and internationally.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide non-profit organization working to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture and to inspire the public about farming in Maine and is open M-F from 9-4, as well as during the weekly Belfast Art Walks (1st Fridays 5:30-8pm in June, Sept-Dec; every Friday in July and August). FMI, visit mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org