A ward-winning contemporary artist and Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken grew up on a family farm in Reading, PA, but he spent his college years and much of his early career focused on art rather than agriculture.
While Van Aken says that his work has always been "inspired by nature and our relationship to nature," it wasn't until recently that the artist's farming background became such a clear and significant influence, first in 2008 when he grafted vegetables together to create strange plants for his Eden exhibition, and then shortly after that when he started to work on the hybridized fruit trees that would become the Tree of 40 Fruit.
Van Aken's work has been described as “part Dr. Seuss, part Frankenstein, and just about everything fantastic.” His practice of grafting buds from a variety of antique, heirloom and native fruit trees onto the branches of a single tree, has resulted in unique hybrids that bear different kinds of stone fruit, from peaches and plums, to cherries and almonds. The residency will allow Van Aken to interact with other artists in the field of bio arts, and work with professionals and UB students to develop an urban orchard in Buffalo's historic Fruit Belt neighborhood.
Time and topic of artist talk to be announced.