Buckwheat No. 8 Cutouts, 26″ x 39″, pastel on paper
[T]hérèse L. Provenzano was born and raised on Long Island, New York, but her mother was from Aroostook County and the land there exerted a powerful pull on her. In 2002, Provenzano moved from Manhattan to her great-grandfather’s homestead in Wallagrass. She now teaches at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and paints her ancestral landscape.
What is your personal connection to the buckwheat fields of the St. John Valley and how did you come to paint them?
My grandfather and my great-grandfather farmed their land by growing potatoes, barley, and oats. We visited my grandparents every summer and sometimes during the winter. Ployes are French-Acadian pancakes made from buckwheat flour and were served during lunch and dinner. Four Septembers ago, I saw the glistening red of buckwheat that had just been harvested on the Bouchard Family Farm. The distant fields pulled me close.
Why did you choose Buckwheat No. 8 Cutouts for The Art of Giving?
It is a painting that allows one to contemplate, rest, and sojourn amongst the soft edges. Perhaps, the viewer will sense the state of grace I experienced as I painted it. This painting serves as a launch pad for future work. I am reminded of the rich colors found in Amish and Mennonite quilts of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
What appeals to you about pastels?
The medium allows the act of drawing and painting simultaneously. Color is built layer upon layer with sticks made of dry powdered pigment and a gum binder. Touch, conveyed ever so gently, mingles with my concerns for mark making, shape, and color harmonies.
What are the primary influences on your art?
Irving Petlin, one of my critics in the MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, stated, “An artist’s work is autobiographical.” I believe that holds true for my work. The Maine landscape and farm objects inform my work. My biggest influence is life itself. There comes a point in your career when you let the work reveal itself and don’t overthink it. There is no one else at the helm or forefront. It is just you and the work. Trust where it is headed.
The reason is twofold. It is about supporting the farmer and the artist. The preservation of farmland is critical to secure farming in Maine. Maine Farmland Trust is a member-powered nonprofit organization that protects and preserves Maine farmland, supports farmers, and advances the future of farming. I wanted to become involved in some small or big way in making a connection between art and agriculture.
Artist photo: Darlene Kelly Dumond, painting photo: Jay York