Artist Mary Nelen shares her fetish for food and flowers

Date: 5/19/2009

HOLYOKE Mary Nelen is a writer, photographer and videographer concentrating on local flora and food. Wistariahurst welcomes the public to her exhibit, "Fetish: Food and Flowers." Her photographic work on display at Wistariahurst represents a year of eating and living locally. She maintains a 100-mile diet and lives in Holyoke with a view of the canal; a vantage point that provides counterpoint to her beat on the Connecticut River. Nelen writes a blog and a column called ValleyLocavore for the Valley Advocate in Northampton and is at work on a book called "Survival Guide to Being a Locavore."

The "food fetish" images in Nelen's photographic work at Wistariahurst concentrate on local foraged food while the "flora fetish" is represented through the gorgeous images available in March; blooming orchids and other exotics from the annual ritual of the Spring Flower Show. Images were taken at Mt. Holyoke's Talcot Botanical Garden in South Hadley. Beginning in April, the food fetish images represent the seasons month to month as the crops came in. All was foraged at farms and in fields up and down the Connecticut River. Nelen photographed her subjects as soon as they appeared in the ground or in the farmers' markets before eating them.

"Fetish: Food and Flowers" is on view through May 31. Gallery hours are Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $3.

Throughout the month of May, Wistariahurst will host a series of talks as part of "Fetish: Food and Flowers." All talks are $5 with sampling of local edibles included.

On May 21 at 6 p.m.: "Foraging Wild Edibles" with Marty Klein. Klein is a local forager of wild edibles. His artistic renderings of indigenous food and flora have been exhibited widely. Klein's discussion will include his foraging and photography techniques, which are fueled by his curiosities, nature's marvels and the mysteries that inspire him daily in his connection to a "green world."

On May 28 at 6 p.m.: Bakers Ben and Ardie Lester of Wheatberry Bakery. Artisan bakers Ben and Ardie Lester of Amherst will discuss baking bread with local grains. As the owners of Wheatberry Bakery in Amherst, they are also heading up a local grain growing effort in partnership with the New England Small Farm Institute. There will be a tasting of their products and local cheese from Goat Rising of Colrain.

Wistariahurst Museum is dedicated to preserving Holyoke's history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events.Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner, a prominent silk manufacturer. The museum is pen for guided tours every Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information or a schedule of other upcoming events, visit or call 322-5660.