Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Art is for the BIRDS!!

The Great Maine Outdoors Weekend encourages people to get outside! This year, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust is working with Lee Lee of the SEED Barn on a participatory sculpture that will be woven directly into the landscape in the Kingdom Woods Conservation Area. Part of the Open Air Arts Initiative, this arts workshop invites community members to collaborate on a sculpture that will provide winter shelter for birds, aesthetically integrating material from young oak trees that were recently cleared to preserve the heirloom blueberry field. Extending the flow of existing natural forms which stand prominently in the landscape, participants will weave the branches together, keeping in mind the space needed by bunnies to burrow and birds to flutter. In the process, contributors can explore ways we may integrate organic detritus offer winter protection for resident species in a way that piques visual interest. The Open-Air Arts Initiative is a collaboration between the SEED Barn, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Cynthia Winings Gallery. Its mission is to use nature to ignite creativity in the young people who live on or visit the Blue Hill Peninsula.

Drawing inspiration from the land immersed arts movement of the west, Lee Lee has been bringing a new kind of community arts practice to the Blue Hill Peninsula. Working with only materials found on site, she has invited the public to work together in weaving sculptures through the landscapes around the Blue Hill Peninsula. Through the spring, she collaborated with local students to build sculptural pollinator homes. As the season transitions into fall, she is working with the wider community on ways we may increase habitat for birds through the series birdSEED.

Sculpting branches that we trim out of the garden challenges the popular but somewhat misplaced notion that tidy yards are superior. In fact, tangles of woody brush are essential habitat for birds, small mammals as well as pollinators. Downeast Audubon director, Leslie Clapp describes ways we may creatively incorporate winter protection for resident birds into our domestic spheres at home; “Building brush piles is fun and you can be as creative as you wish.  Some look like tepees, some porcupines, others bee hives. You can plant vines which cover them for more interest.  Sometimes I put a base of logs (in log cabin style) and then weave the sticks in through the logs so they stand upright. The major thing is not to pack them too tightly so the critters can’t get in.  I keep adding to some year after year because they do break down.”

Complementing the weaving of thicket style shelter for the birds, ongoing seasonal workshops hosted by the SEED barn demonstrate how to ferment and sow fresh native stone fruit seeds. Native species like wild cherries, elderberry, mountain ash and an array of viburnum and dogwoods not only feed the birds but provide important nectar sources for pollinators in the early spring.  Because fruit is an inhibitor to seed germination, it needs to be cleaned off thoroughly; as if it has passed through the gut of a bird, bear or moose. The process of mimicking bird digestion is easily replicated at home by smashing a bunch of fruit to a pulp in a Ziploc bag. Over the course of about ten days, mashing the bag daily, the bubbles of fermentation form in the macerated fruit then settle. At this point, the seeds may be cleaned by immersing them in fresh water, massaging any remaining fruit off the seed, swirling the pulp in a bowl of water and pouring off the macerated fruit. Viable seeds will sink in the vortex of the swirl, while the fruit will be picked up by the current and easily poured off. These seeds cannot dry out, so need to be planted fresh. They may be stored immersed in vermiculite in the same plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator until the season shifts; then planted right before the ground freezes. 

Supported in part by a project grant from the Maine Arts Commission, birdSEED will continue the following week with a public workshop on taming invasive bittersweet and barberry at the Blue Hill Consolidated School on September 29th.

Katie Woodall

Katie Woodall sculpture

Dedicated Altar

After our hive was destroyed by a bear, sections lay on the ground. I found this propolis and wax section intact just under the hive where I guess the mice had been living, eating plum seeds and honey. A complex habitat.

They say that “bees are the legs of the plant”…delivering the pollen from flower to flower. They are actually the essential connectors that make it possible for us to survive by way of the fruit of the vine.

In many places around the world, bees have been disappearing. There are chemicals in GMO corn and soy, etc. that take away the memory of how to get back to the hive. For monoculture crops – like almonds in California – big farming uses millions of bees to pollinate but doesn’t provide enough diverse forage, and so they die. This is just one example. The agricultural pesticides we use destroy immune systems. Whole communities of bees are broken apart continuously in industrial harvesting. These ways can change.

Humans and bees have been working together for 10,000 years. They are our allies. Come back, bees! This altar is dedicated to their return, we are a community together. It works as a tool for anyone to use as many times as needed. Just light the candle and replace with a new one.

Katie Woodall Shrine for Bees
Katie Woodall portrait of Vandana Shiva

Laura Phelps Rogers

As a contemporary artist, my three dimensional work focuses on metal fabrication, iron and bronze casting – with photography playing a critical role in both my creative process, installation and mixed media work.  Using a narrative approach my work integrates social and cultural constructs to reveal layers of familiarities.  Expanding those ideas to include larger topics of: roles of women, the west, the landscape and my agricultural roots continues to facilitate my interest in ephemeral materials as part of my visual process. The changing western landscape and our changing food sources serve as a basis to include food and natural materials in my work, while expanding the historical and social dialogue pertaining to food and food sources.  Using a layered approach, I frequently combine nostalgia with humor and playfulness, to contrast the more serious aspects of life and our environment.  Connecting viewers and community through my narrative approach continues to be a driving force in my work.

Laura Phelps Rogers

Laura Phelps Rogers, Bronze sculpture of A Simpler Time
A Simpler Time, cast bronze, wire, clothespins

Merce Mitchell

Merce Mitchell sculpture of Pod: Skullcap
POD: Skullcap

I have been a feltmaker for twenty years. I create dimensional pieces of inlay design, embellished and embroidered, and sculpture.  Felt has a tendency to mutate and change form. There’s an element of chaos that emphasizes process over result, leading to an unplanned order, a natural unfolding and allowing the work to have a life of its own.

There is always a story in my work, mixing the personal and symbolic. My inspirations and translations revolve around chaos theory, vortex energy, women’s power and aspects, seeds, and life/death imagery, which are all my personal experience.

My main focus is fine fiber artwork that emphasizes color, construction and deconstruction. Form, technique, and the combination of felt, wire, and encaustic is my current exploration.

Merce Mitchell

Merce Mitchell felt sculpture of Pod: Hermannia
POD: Hermannia

TJ Mabrey

TJ Mabrey - Seed CarrierTitle: Seed Carrier (detail)
Medium: Italian Marble
Size: 7.5 x 30 x 5 inches

Artist Statement

Seeds are dispersed in so many unique ways. The seeds themselves have built in mechanisms for moving about: jumping-jack bounces, sticky bits to attach to clothing, fur, shoes of passers-by etc…But my intent in submitting the sculpture Seed Carrier is to show another way – by boat/ship.  The sculpture represents an empty wisteria pod which is floating on water, like a boat on the ocean.

The marble bed for the seed is empty of the wisteria seed, but I filled it with other (real) seeds to indicate how seeds for food are transported, country to country and continent to continent. Sometimes those seeds meant for food (rice, wheat, and the occasional wild flower) become embedded in the earth where they land and are able to reproduce……that is, if they haven’t come in contact with the New and Improved Monsanto Monster – RoundUp Ready-Xtend!

Seed Carrier by TJ Mabrey
TJ Mabrey, Seed Carrier, Italian Marble