The Kingston Museum of Contemporary Arts (KMoCA) will soon be filled with paintings and photographs depicting the state of small-ag farming and seed-saving efforts in the Hudson Valley. “The Art of Seed Stewardship: Hudson Valley Seed Library Pack Art 2016” and Francesco Mastalia’s photos from Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley will be on exhibition, with an opening reception this Saturday evening, November 7 and a special Walk and Talk presentation delivered by the Seed Library’s Ken Greene on Saturday, November 14. Founder of the Seed Library, Greene is passionate about promoting the restoration of seed varieties and educating the public on their history.
Every year the Seed Library commissions artists to create seed packet artwork, and for six years those works of art have been exhibited in a traveling show of the originals each year. “At KMoCA – we like to do our first show locally, because many of our artists are local – we’re sharing this space with Francesco,” says Greene. “He uses a very ‘heirloom’ sort of process to make his photographs of farmers and chefs, whereas the artwork that we commission is very contemporary and colorful. We’re both celebrating growing and eating through art and doing it in different ways.”
This year, the Seed Library is introducing 15 new flower, vegetable and herb varieties to be added to the 400 varieties already in the full catalogue. Once the commissioned artwork is done for a particular variety, that is the one that will be seen on the seed packet. “We move the exhibit all over the country, and every year it has more reach. We’ve already booked a show in Troy for the Art Center of the Capital Region and one in Santa Rosa, California, for the Heirloom Expo, one in Corvallis, Oregon, Tower Hill outside of Boston, the Philadelphia Flower Show. I really wanted to continue that tradition I found by collecting antique seed catalogues, only make it more contemporary. Seed-pack and catalogue design has become so generic. To me what’s important is the story the seeds come with, and the cultural and genetic diversity. By having every one different, it kind of screams diversity: the flavors, the colors, the adaptations.”
Greene says that they started the gallery show of the originals because they wanted to do more for their artists in addition to the commission, so doing a show gives them a lot of exposure. “I consider seed-saving an art. There are a lot of creative decisions that go into seed stewardship. My creative interests have all been funneled into seeds, and I love supporting the creative arts industry. Artists are cultural seed-savers. They’re creating culture through their work. We’re trying to use the power of art to communicate our message and help people understand the way our seeds are different; this artwork reflects that.”
The Hudson Valley Seed Library is a small independent seed company that grows organic, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds in Accord. A pop-up shop at the opening will offer people a chance to buy seeds and fine-art prints. Visitors to the Seed Stories Gallery Walk and Talk will learn why there’s a star constellation of a raven above Dark Star Zucchini, what mice have to do with Mexican Sour Gherkins, how a paintbrush created Bush Delicata Squash and more.
Mastalia, a documentary photographer and author living in Rhinebeck, spotlights the Hudson Valley as a region at the forefront of the organic movement in his book Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley. It features the dedicated farmers who are committed to growing and producing food using sustainable methods, and the chefs who echo their beliefs and pay homage to the food that they produce.
Art of Seed Stewardship/Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley opening reception, Saturday, November 7, 5-8 p.m., free, Gallery Talk with Ken Greene, Saturday, November 14, 1 & 2:30 p.m., $10, Kingston Museum of Contemporary Arts,103 Abeel Street, Kingston; (845) 204-8769, www.seedlibrary.org/tools-and-supplies/workshop-tickets.html.