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Orchard of dreams: Art in the Orchard starts Saturday

  • “Bumble Bee/Barn” by Sara Lyons and Four Rivers Public Charter School students. PHOTO BY SARA K. LYONS

  • “Refugees,” by sculptor and painter Michael Melle of Plainfield. PHOTO COURTESY OF ART IN THE ORCHARD

  • Artist Lindsey Molyneux of Huntington, left, positions her roughly 200-pound sculpture “Lillie’s Unicorn” made of steel, driftwood and copper, in preparation for Art In the Orchard, a walking sculpture trail at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. Leverett sculptor Gary Orlinsky, center, and property owner Russell Braen, who is curating the event with his partner Alane Hartley, assist Molyneux. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Peter Dellert of Holyoke, right, and art handler Larry Daniels of Holyoke work to assemble Dellert’s “Obsolete Oil Can Fountain” in preparation for Art In the Orchard, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. The sculpture is based on a vintage oil can and drips water from the top. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • “Lillie’s Unicorn,” a roughly 200-pound sculpture made of steel, driftwood and copper by artist Lindsey Molyneux of Huntington is positioned in preparation for Art In the Orchard. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Lindsey Molyneux of Huntington, right, positions her roughly 200 lb. sculpture "Lillie's Unicorn" made of steel, driftwood and copper Aug. 6, 2017 in preparation for Art In the Orchard, a walking sculpture trail at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. Property owner Russell Braen, who is curating the event with his partner Alane Hartley, assist Molyneux. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Peter Dellert of Holyoke, right, and art handler Larry Daniels of Holyoke work to assemble Dellert's "Obsolete Oil Can Fountain" sculpture made with grapevine harvested from Easthampton, South Hadley and Conway Aug. 6, 2017 in preparation for Art In the Orchard, a walking sculpture trail at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. The sculpture is based on a vintage oil can and drips water from the top. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • "The Long Good Bye" by Bernard Zubrowski is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton artist Eileen Jager installs her piece, "Through the Looking Glass" at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton on Wednesday, August 2, 2017, for the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "Superweed" by Clement Wade is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • “Wink” by Kamil Peters. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • “A2” by Chris Woodman. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "A2" by Chris Woodman is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "Superweed" by Clement Wade is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "Wink" by Kamil Peters is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • “The Long Good Bye” by Bernard Zubrowski is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show, which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton artist Eileen Jager installs her piece, "Through the Looking Glass" at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton on Wednesday, August 2, 2017, for the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "The Long Good Bye" by Bernard Zubrowski is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton artist Eileen Jager installs her piece, “Through the Looking Glass” at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton for the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "Superweed" by Clement Wade is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • "Superweed" by Clement Wade is part of the biennial Art In the Orchard show which opens Saturday, August 12, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Friday, August 11, 2017

Apple orchards usually begin hitting their peak in very late summer and fall. But when it comes to Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton, some things get started a little earlier.

Specifically, alongside some early crops like cherries, Park Hill is now sprouting a rich variety of artwork.

“Art in the Orchard,” Easthampton’s biennial outdoor exhibit, opens this Saturday for its fourth season, with an expanded number of exhibits selected from a record number of applications — 88 — from artists across Massachusetts and from a number of other states, organizers say.

A giant praying mantis, painted wooden boxes designed to attract nesting bees, a gleaming metal figure that seems equally inspired by 1940s superhero comics and ancient Greek myths... this year’s exhibit offers a wide range of art that adds a colorful and eclectic palette to an already scenic landscape. 

Easthampton gallery and framing shop owner Jean-Pierre Pasche, along with Park Hill Orchard owners Russell Braen and Alane Hartley, began Art in the Orchard in 2011 as an experiment, with just 16 exhibts.

But since then, Pasche says, word has gotten out about the show, pushing visitation for its two-plus month run up toward 30,000 people and attracting an ever-growing pile of applications from artists. A jury made up of local artists, business leaders and community members reviews the proposals; and numerous volunteers, as well as Park Hill employees, help set up the show, which is partly funded through a grant from Easthampton City Arts.

“It is truly a community project,” said Braen.

Pasche says he believes the exhibit has gained currency among artists — this year’s show includes work from artists from Connecticut, Vermont and Maine — because it provides a better fee than do many other comparable shows. They receive $500 for an accepted piece.

“We’re able to do that because we’ve gotten some very generous support [from visitors],” said Pasche. Though the show is free, donations are encouraged, “and when someone leaves $2 or $3, or a family leaves $5 or $10, it adds up,” he noted. 

“I think what keeps people coming back is this beautiful setting, the variety of the art, and the quality of the produce that Arlane and Russell and their staff grow,” Pasche added. “You can really make a day of things here, especially at harvest time.”

A big bug — but not a pest

As in past years, visitors follow a path that snakes through the orchard’s upper and lower sections, which Braen and Hartley have extensively reworked since buying the property about 10 years ago, planting new apple varieties and other crops. Hartley said their first significant cherry crop has finally come in this year.

In the upper meadow, with its grand view of Mount Tom, there’s a large bug on display that fortunately is not the fruit-eating kind. It’s the work of Kamil Peters, a metal sculptor from Holyoke who first exhibited at Art in the Orchard in 2013.

This year he’s back with a giant praying mantis, one he calls “Wink” in honor of the late Charles Winkler, a Maryland metalworker and sculptor with whom Peters served as an apprentice 10 years ago.

“He taught me basically everything I know,” said Peters, who uses a variety of found materials, as well as sheet-metal scrap from junkyards and metal shops, for his work. He noted that one of the early projects he did with guidance from Winkler, who died earlier this year, was a six-foot praying mantis. 

His new sculpture is larger and more complex — about 12-feet long and around six feet high at its apex, the creature’s head is made partly from old propane tanks. Peters, a Hampshire College graduate who has also designed signs, furniture and other items for area restaurants, has fashioned excellent details for his huge insect, such as its curved mandibles and a latticework of tiny metal rods that make up the interior of its wings.

Peters said he had already begun planning his piece when he learned his old teacher was ill; he visited Winkler earlier this year in Maryland before he died. Coming up with his project’s name was easy, he said, as everyone who knew Winkler well called him “Wink.”

“It really is a memento to him,” said Peters. “And it’s exciting to be able to have it at this show.”

Bees and more

Just past noon on a hot day last week, Eileen Jager was working with Braen to hang part of her sculpture, “Through the Looking Glass,” between two pear trees. Wearing a tool belt, Jager eyed her piece, hung from a cable strung between the trees, and said “We’re getting there.”

Jager, who designs furniture and wall sculpture by fusing glass mosaics with wood, primarily crafts her work for indoors, but she also likes to create some designs for outside display; this is her third go-round at Art in the Orchard.

The Easthampton artist’s new work consists of seven connected wood frames, with the largest frame in the center and smaller ones to the left and right. The frames are partially filled with opaque, textured glass on the bottom and are open on the top.

Slender mirrors are embedded in the frames on one side, while the other sides are painted in a sequence that represents “the colors of the rainbow,” Jager said, as well as the seven chakras, which in Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, are considered the body’s centers of energy.

“I wanted to do something that spoke to these troubled times we find ourselves in,” said Jager. “But I wanted to offer the opportunity [for visitors] to think about how they’re approaching this — what’s their frame of reference?”

She suggested that seeing oneself in a sliver of mirror in her piece could be likened to looking at the past, while gazing through the open sections of the frames — which offered a view across open ground to other exhibits — is akin to gazing to the future.

At the orchard’s further end is a first for the sculpture trail: a group art project. “Bumblebee/Barn” consists of 18 open-ended wooden boxes, painted various shades of purple and mounted on three painted wooden posts (six to each post) and positioned so that they wrap around the posts in an artful, descending fashion.

It’s the work of Sara Lyons, a photographer and an art teacher at Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, and about 25 of her students, grades seven to 11. It’s also a functional piece of art: Each of the boxes contains many tiny tubes made of wood, such as bamboo and Japanese knotweed, which can serve as nests for solitary bees.

“We wanted to do something related to farming, and the students were interested in doing a sculpture that could help pollinating bees,” said Lyons, a former Hadley resident now living in Greenfield.

Among the more interesting facts the students learned during their research is that roughly 90 percent of bees don’t live in hives, but rather in solitary nests, said Lyons. And what better local place for some of these loner pollinators, she noted, could there be than an orchard?

It’s too early to tell if some bees will take up lodging in these “nesting boxes” and help pollinate Park Hill’s crops, she said, “but the students and I are thrilled to be part of the show.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com. 

“Art in the Orchard” opens Saturday at Park Hill Orchard, 82 Park Hill Road in Easthampton, and runs through November 26. There will be an opening reception for the artists Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information about the show and other special events, visit artintheorchard.org.