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Collaborative Concepts' Farm Project

Until the Cows Come Home

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On the Saunders Farm, a black Angus steer nuzzles a bright yellow triangle. Welcome to the seventh year of Collaborative Concepts’ “Farm Project.” As far as I can tell, this is the only sculpture exhibition on a functioning farm in the world. The show runs through October 28, in Garrison.

Over 60 artists are represented, many from the Hudson Valley, others from New York City, with a smattering of international sculptors. “We’ve had artists from every continent except Africa—and I’m working on that!” vows Eric Arctander of Collaborative Concepts. Much of the art is for sale, and last year $25,000 worth of it was sold. As an artist-run nonprofit, the Farm Project never charges a fee for artists or visitors.

The submission process is rather elaborate. Collaborative Concepts posts an open call for sculpture, then fields submissions. The selections committee accepts almost every proposal, unless they find it inappropriate. One artist wished to paint the word COW on each steer, for example. (“We don’t do that; the cows are too dignified,” explains Arctander.) Another wanted to place obstacles in front of the cattle—that proposal was also nixed. Two years ago, however, the artist Hideki Takahashi proposed painting a picture of a cow and placing it on a cowpath, for the creatures to walk and defecate on. That artwork was accepted, and was successful—the cows cooperated.

Which brings up another point. Should one be careful while walking through the pastures? “You should wear sensible footwear and look down as often as you look up,” Arctander counsels.

A second engineering committee verifies that the art will be cow-proof. This year, a piece by Abby Lloyd called Big Girl was eaten by hungry bovines. It consisted of a large bra and panties hanging from a clothesline. “Cows eat cloth,” Arctander notes.

All the art is temporary—in fact, at the closing, some of it’s burned in a bonfire—except for one piece. Last year John Allen chiseled the words THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY into a stone wall. This sign remains, ironically, from year to year.

Collaborative Concepts began with an article in the New York Times. In the year 2000, a group of artists rented a 14,000-square-foot space in Cold Spring for an art show. After the Times wrote about the exhibit, it was extended for an extra month. Eventually, the group rented space in Beacon for six years, but was forced out by rising rents. At this point, Sandy Saunders stepped in and volunteered his 140-acre farm.

A black Angus steer does not exist in the wild. It is as much a human creation as a Picasso. So the Saunders Farm makes perfect sense as an art installation. Most of the art is nonfigurative, though there are several skeletons this year. Bob Van Winkle has an untitled work of two giant bone-men with two-dimensional skull heads, one shooting an arrow at the other. Chrysalis is a multimedia skeleton hanging upside down from a tree, by Susan Zoon and Auggie Della Vecchia. Zoon is also the author of the horror novels Post Crypt and Vampire Lover. Why three skeletons in one year? Perhaps they refer to the Mayan prophecies of doom for 2012?

Collaborative Concepts also presents cultural gatherings. A midrun reception on Saturday, October 13, at 2 PM (rain date October 14) will include performance art and a music program curated by Thom Joyce.

Collaborative Concepts Farm Project 2012 runs until October 28 at the Saunders Farm in Garrison, at 853 Old Albany Post Road. (845) 528-1797; Collaborativeconcepts.org.

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