'Cockerel'. A photo by Jennie Hayes as part of Aune Head Arts' Women in Farming project
Exhibition preview - Women in Farming at Exeter Phoenix until April 12 2008
An art project and exhibition in the South West looks below the surface of the lives of three women hill farmers on Dartmoor.
Women in Farming was organised by Dartmoor-based rural contemporary arts organisation Aune Head Arts (AHA) and placed six women artists on three farms over the four seasons of a farming year.
The result is a series of evocative works including photographs, textiles, handmade books, sculptures, drawings, and gold-plated ear tags awarded to 'good mother' sheep.
At Wingstone Farm, run by Juliette Rich in Manaton, artist Tot Foster found herself involved in minutiae of farm life and her work includes a cabinet containing handmade books, a matchbox of seeds, jars of natural materials, children's drawings, photographs, a mouse covered in grass seed and farm artefacts.
'Getting to Know Sue', body warmer by Louise Evans as part of Aune Head Arts' Women in Farming project
Maddy Pethick found a companion in sheepdog, Jazz, and the two of them explored Wingstone's gardens, fields and woods collecting colourful plastic feed-buckets which Maddy turned into subjects for photographs and a sculptural tower –– much to the astonishment of nearby ewes.
Other artworks include linen 'bodywarmers' made by Louise Evans using the front, back, pocket, label and lining as sites for text, images, artifacts and embroidery. These expressed the different aspects of a woman farmer and her many roles: shepherdess, landowner/administrator, guardian of Drywell, horsewoman, supplier of meat, etc.
Jennie Hayes and Penny Klepuszewska created striking photographs examining the progress of the seasons on Drywell and Batworthy Farms. Dramatic clouds of smoke billowing over the commons were captured by Jennie during swaling near Widecombe, along with the elegant lines of Dartmoor ponies, and the annual task undertaken by three generations of Drywell women of plucking turkeys for Christmas dinner.
Photo by Penny Klepuszewska as part of Aune Head Arts' Women in Farming project
As well as recording their experiences and exploring farming practice, more significantly, the artists were inspired to look at the people themselves and their relationship to the place in which they live and work.
AHA is a not-for-profit rural arts organisation making and commissioning contemporary arts projects. It provides opportunities for local, regional and national artists to work in rural contexts, particularly on Dartmoor and particularly nurtures early career artists.
This is an exhibition preview. If you’ve been to see the show, why not let us know?