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Attempting to turn a farm into art in Orient


Most people would typically assume unique patterns carved into farmland to be the work of aliens. But typical is not a word one would use to describe artist Brett Loving. 

The Southampton resident set out in late winter to complete an earth art project he had dubbed “The Walk of Life” that would use about two acres at the 62-acre Ezair Farms property in Orient. After four days of bulldozing to create 15-foot-tall berms, and with nearly 90 percent of the project completed, he ran into a problem with Southold Town.

Mr. Loving was notified by the town that despite having the approval of landowner Khedouri Ezair, a portion of the property’s development rights had been sold to Southold Town, limiting the type of activity that can take place on the farm.

Despite having to level out his self-funded effort, Mr. Loving still hopes to receive the necessary approvals to move forward with his dream project.

“This is a dream that I had — literally a dream that I woke up from in the middle of the night and drew on a piece of paper,” he explained.

Mr. Loving, 28, classified his earthwork project as more than just art, saying he believes it to be an agricultural use, unlike anything done before on the North Fork. He said he thought he had was allowed to create his project on the entire lot, but later learned he could not move forward on the acreage for which the development rights had been sold.

“I just want to work with everybody; I don’t want to work against anybody,” Mr. Loving told the Suffolk Times.

Southold Town land preservation committee chairman John Sepenoski said Tuesday that the earth art project is not a permitted use on a preserved parcel.

“There is an easement there that restricts use to agriculture and production,” Mr. Sepenoski said.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town’s action has nothing to do with taste and everything to do with the law.

“It’s not an opinion [of] whether I like it or not,” Mr. Russell said. “The development rights were sold, so that complicated the issue on what you can and can’t do on the property.”

Southold Town Attorney Bill Duffy said Mr. Loving also began his project without a building permit for excavation and a stormwater permit from the town as well as a state pollution discharge elimination system permit from the DEC. He said it’s also possible the project would have required a wetlands permit from the town’s Board of Trustees.

The height of the berms also exceeded the height allowed under town code and there were concerns Indian artifacts could be located on the property, according to an email Mr. Duffy sent to town officials.

Mr. Loving now plans to recreate his project, rotating the artwork in the direction of the buildable portion of the property.

'Walk of Life' before it was leveled. (Credit: Brett Loving, courtesy)
‘Walk of Life’ before it was leveled. (Credit: Brett Loving, courtesy)

He plans to work with Southold Town engineer Michael Collins to continue his vision and hopes to complete the project by fall. Mr. Loving said the property is being surveyed this week and he plans to meet with Mr. Collins in the next few weeks to get things underway again.

He wants this piece of art to be used by members of the community, including farmers, teachers and local gardeners. The idea is to be able to grow crops on it and for it to be a place where residents can enjoy nature. He also envisions the spot as a location for class field trips where students can learn about sustainable living.

“My idea was to have something that can be interactive that would also give back,” Mr. Loving said.

“I’m not just another guy who is coming in and is trying to do whatever I want,” he added.

Gaining popularity in the 1960s, earthworks use nature to create art from natural surfaces. Some well-known artists who produce this type of work include Andy Goldsworthy and Michael Heizer. This form of art can include sculptures, structures or, in Mr. Loving’s case, a whole interactive community garden.

“This will allow all different [people] a platform to come and have a space to use that is not ordinary,” he said.

Mr. Loving himself has a unique background. Born in San Diego, Calif., he grew up in Montana and has traveled across the country as a professional motocross athlete. At the age of 17, he moved to Arizona to race motorcycles professionally. He later switched to racing cars after sustaining a number of injuries. Throughout all of this, he was always painting, sculpting and designing art.

“I’ve always been involved in making things,” he said.

In 2012 he opened a construction company in East Hampton called Earthworks. His company aims to build in the greenest way possible, he said.

He is now trying to combine business and art together. Despite not going to art school, Mr. Loving studied art and color theory on his own for about three years. He creates abstract paintings without holding a brush in his hands, but instead attaching it to an excavator. With this tool he uses a push-pull technique, something he said also came to him in a dream.

“I was thinking of a way I could apply more force to the squeegee to achieve an aesthetic I was going for,” he said. “The skill set required to paint with a 40,000-pound machine just seemed ridiculous and fun.”

While he continues to make paintings, Mr. Loving is excited to get his Orient project up and running again. He hopes to one day bring these types of ideas all over the world and has been in contact with people from Texas who are interested in having him create a similar project there.

For now, though, he’s focused on creating his earth art on the East End, where he appreciates the artist community.

“You have an inspiration out here that’s just completely different than anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Even if you’re not a painter, it does something to you, it inspires you.”

Top caption: Artist Brett Loving in front of his painting ‘Supernova’ at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story published in last week’s issue of The Suffolk Times omitted comment from town attorney Bill Duffy. We recognize the information he provided should have been included in that version of the story and apologize for any inconvenience. The information has been added to our online story and a clarification will appear in the June 23 issue of The Suffolk Times.