Art in the Orchard Covid Edition



Park Hill Orchard

82 Park Hill Road, Easthampton, MA

Through November 28, 2021.

[Click on images for larger view]


It’s no secret that art and the Covid crisis have been troubled partners. On one hand, the lockdown gave artists more studio time to exercise their creative impulses. On the other, galleries and museums locked their doors and, even when they reopened, hours were reduced and there was fierce competition to secure exhibition space.


In the best of times, Art in the Orchard is a treat. This year it’s an especially sweet one, even though many of the artists on display quite naturally turned to the somber topic of reflecting upon Covid and its social and personal impact. It is, though, a comfortable event for the public as the artwork is spread in fields along either side of the road from the farm stand. If you want to buy some apples, cider, pie, or other goodies there is an outdoor setup where you can do so.


Here is a sampler of art that caught my eye:




When you park your car, you will see a wooden portal that frames a pumpkin patch with orchards behind them and Mt. Tom looming in the distance. Call it a metaphor for an Alice in Wonderland through-the-looking glass experience. On the other side of the road, a metallic bear greets you. If those aren’t enticing come-ons, you can’t be pleased so turn around and go home!




Michael Tillyer is the executive director of the New England Visionary Artist Museum in Northampton and a mainstay at Art in the Orchard. His whimsical sculptures are a delight and I’ve yet to encounter someone who looks at one of his carved dogs and doesn’t have an “Awwww!” moment.




Greenfield, MA artist Ted Hinman spent time reflecting upon our need to be better caretakers of the environment. On the surface, his “Garden of Delight” is a lot of fun and akin to rooting around in a toybox of discarded objects. Notice how he looked at a castoff baseball mitt and imagined a bee. The installation is loaded with eye candy, but he has his eye on bigger things, the aforementioned stewardship of the natural realm.




Brian McQuillen is another repeat artist. His “Vida” is its own statement. McQuillen works with “junk” metal and “Vida” is at once enticing and perplexing. There is the joy of the flute, but also the distress of viewing a figure that is the exoskeleton of something robotic yet vaguely human. Mixed message? I think that’s the point!




Easthampton’s Chris Woodman has fashioned a cyclopic eye for “Rise and Shine.” Try not to gaze into the giant eye that tops a monopod. Talk about grabbing your attention!




Florence, MA-based Dave Rothstein uses to wire and hay for “Hoo Goes There.” Spend some time with it as from a distance it’s not immediately clear that you are looking at nesting owls, some of whom are stretching their wings. Its ephemerality is the ultimate expression of organic art.


Covid has the sad distinction of being the deadliest pandemic in American history. Prior to that, it was the Spanish flu outbreak that took 675,00 American lives in 1919-20. It came on the heels of an even grimmer event: World War One. More than 20,000,000 died in the war (116,000 of whom were Americans). You might know Dr. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field,” which opens with the memorable lines: “In Flanders field the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row….” It commemorates the blood-soaked spot in Belgium where a particularly gruesome campaign took place. 




Eileen Travis of Poughkeepsie, NY connects the tragic dots between war, the influenza outbreak, and Covid through a simple act that is startingly profound. Travis crocheted a passel of red poppies and strewed them upon the verdant grass of the orchard grounds. Seldom has crochet been so deeply moving.




If you need a pick-me-up after that, wander over to “Geranium,” a cluster of pink flowers sewn from nylon flag material. It is the work of Grafton, MA artist Diana Shobrys. The actual grouping is large, but this closeup shows the richness of the color and the level of detail that went into each flower.


Believe me when I say that what I have displayed is but a small fraction of you will see, think, and imagine. And buy some apples!


Rob Weir

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