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Staten Island, New York, United States

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art of the Heirloom (seeds, that is) Exhibit at the Horticultural Society of New York

Art of the Heirloom opening, seeds for sale at right
I attended a lively art opening last night at the Horticultural Society of New York. The exhibit is called Art of the Heirloom and is presented by the Hudson Valley Seed Library. The exhibit is comprised of original art that was commissioned for a collection of seed packets

I first ran across this company at the New Amsterdam Market (at the former Fulton Fish Market) where I met Ken Greene, the Seed Library's founder. He got the idea for the Seed Library when he was working at a regular library and thought to himself "why not try a seed library based on the same principles as a library that lends books?" Members would save seeds from their own crop each year and contribute them back. The idea has grown exponentially since then, but seed saving by backyard gardeners is still a big part of it. I like to use these seeds in my own garden because I know that they come from the region where I live and thrive here.

Ed's Kohlrabi, Sheryl's Rainbow Chard
The other wonderful thing that the Hudson Valley Seed Library does is promote regional artists through their seed pack commissions. I have two artist friends, also gardeners, who have done commissions. Last year Sheryl Humphrey did a painting for Rainbow Chard. This year her husband, Ed Coppola, did a collage for Purple Vienna Kohlrabi. Ed's collage was in the exhibit and that's what brought me to the opening. Sheryl was a natural choice since she paints vivid iconographic paintings, often of women's faces surrounded by lush vegetation.

Ed Coppola next to his collage
Ed's collages have a tongue-in-cheek science fiction aspect to them, which is very well suited to the otherworldly "sputniklike" look of a kohlrabi. All of us artist/gardeners on Staten Island have vowed to make the kohlrabi the next big vegetable and will be growing them in our own gardens this year, using these seeds.

The art for the seed packs were not all two-dimensional. Some of my favorites were sculptural. There was a very  elegant ceramic wall piece, Kale Cubes, done by Gregg Moore.

 I was also delighted by some felt radishes with a lot of personality that were made by  Melissa Mandel. During the artist talks Ken Greene held one of the radishes up by its leaves, reminding me of holding up a rabbit by its ears. 
 This exhibit will be traveling. And while the art itself belongs to  the Hudson Valley Seed Library, there are fine art prints of the artwork available for sale. I got very inspired and will be applying to do a seed pack commission myself for next season.
snacks with a garden-y presentation
Although the art was great, I have to say a word about the beverages being served, as well. True to the spirit of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, the drinks were also regional. The beer was from the Ommegang Brewery, a Belgian style brewery in Cooperstown, NY. And there was also whiskey from Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery  in the Hudson Valley. Now, I already love the Ommegang beers, but I'm a new fan of the Tuthilltown whiskey - very smooth, yummy and warming!  

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