Sam Van Aken works in various media and disciplines to explore such themes as communication, botany, agriculture, climatology, and the ever-increasing impact of technology.
During his residency, Van Aken will turn McColl Center’s first-floor gallery and sculpture studio into a living exhibition and workshop space to continue his ongoing project, The Open Orchard. Building on his Tree of 40 Fruit Project, in which heirloom orchards were preserved by collapsing them onto a single tree through the process of grafting, The Open Orchard places these antique fruits back onto individual trees. Incorporating botanical illustrations, tree stumps, herbarium specimens, and more, Van Aken will turn the gallery into a site of experimentation, education, collaboration, and conservation, as he attempts to address threats to food security and the loss of diversity, through the preservation of heirloom and antique fruit varieties. Acting as a gene bank or archive of the parent varieties of today’s modern fruit, Van Aken’s The Open Orchard draws on the idea of the streuobstwiese, a sixteenth-century German term for a community-owned meadow orchard.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Van Aken earned his undergraduate degree at Slippery Rock University in Art and Communication Theory. Immediately following his studies, he lived in Poland and worked with dissident artists under the former communist regime through the auspices of the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. Van Aken earned his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has been exhibited internationally and he is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including a Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Grant and a Creative Capital Grant. Van Aken is an Associate Professor of Studio Arts (Sculpture) at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, and is represented by Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York, New York.
Sam Van Aken's artist residency is generously supported by the Windgate Charitable Fund and made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-10-17-0085-17].