June 22nd at the Barnum Factory
June 22nd at the Barnum Factory
Chicken Tractor is proud to announce its contribution to Art Week Des Moines, a one-night exhibit of work by four of Iowa's most talented artists. Their works are heavy with the dialogue between predator and prey. They honor the lives and deaths of Iowa's wildlife with work describing the alertness required for survival and reflecting the artifacts and environments created by human violence.
My work is concerned with the portrayal, oppression and subversive existence of women in America today. As a white woman raised by a lesbian on the plains of Nebraska, I feel obligated to confront racial and misogynistic injustice and my escape from it, into the prairie. I see my body as an object of power and vulnerability and I see Nature and its processes the same way. Together these inspire a practice that illuminates the overlooked and forgotten. In my hybrid practice I create objects, installations, ritual performances, videos, and collaborative works.
Everything I create investigates the beauty and complexity of natural phenomena. I use the simple tools of projection, tracing, stenciling and cutting to identify and expand characteristics of biological ephemera. My home in Central Iowa is 6 miles from Interstate 80. Here the deer herd numbers 400,000. They were nearly hunted to extinction in 1900. Now, with no natural predators the animals feed and shelter in endless rows of feed corn. In my agricultural state they are both vermin and trophy.
Year round the highways are littered with road kill. In the early spring I walk creek beds and ditches to retrieve the bones washed away and cleaned by vultures and insects. The incomplete nature of these skeletons carry evidence of the automobiles that struck them and the gnawed marks of the scavengers they sustained.
I polish the bones to a porcelain shine and then engrave an image of a lacy network onto their surface. With a jeweler’s tool I carve the bones and remove the marrow from their core. Once hollow and clean I gild the internal chamber with 24 karat gold. I am building a precious relic of something silent and wild that lives and dies by our agriculture, our economies, and our speed.
One of Iowa's most noted artists, Larassa's work has been featured by the White House, acquired by the Des Moines Art Center, and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions in New York and elsewhere, Often creating large scale, photorealistic drawings, Larassa also creates with mixed media, sculpture, and in collaboration with other artists.
My work embodies a symbolic language in which I explore themes including inner confrontation, spirituality, vulnerability, and death. I am interested in the complexity of human behavior from our celebratory moments to disastrous events. In observing the extremes both the dark and light of humanity are present. In understanding our polarities, we establish a new sense of awareness. By exploring the dark side of human nature we can engage in discussion to heal our "collective shadow" including violence. I seek to stimulate conversations about how communities can unite to heal our past and work to minimize violent acts in the future.
Bob Schulte won the 2017 Microgrant Dinner. He'll use the $750 grant to excavate and move a large printing press into his basement, reinvigorating a community print lab.
The 2017 dinner is supported generously by the Des Moines Arts Festival ®, Moberg Gallery, Olson Larsen Galleries, Visionary Services, and Beeline + Blue.
We are proud to commit to a second year of our Bridge Work program, working again with our great partnering organiztions to expand the professional networks of emerging artists in our Midwest region. Details will develop over the summer. We're excited to introduce the artists representing Iowa in Bridge Work 2017.
Jen P. Harris works primarily in the disciplines of painting, installation, and drawing. She uses transparent inks, paper, acrylic media, and wood to create works that reference divergent subsets of appropriated source material, often selected for their cosmological, terrestrial, or technological associations. Layered images fuse strata of social, political, and mythical thought tied to such sources as medieval woodcuts, botanical illustrations, contemporary infographics and abstract painting language. Most recently her work has taken the form of large, kaleidoscopic wall installations that offer contradictory spatial configurations and bring technological and ecological imagery into simultaneous connection and conflict.
Harris holds a BA in Studio Art from Yale University and an MFA in Painting from Queens College CUNY (2008). She has exhibited work across the United States at venues including Daniel Cooney Fine Art (NYC), the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, and the University of Kansas, and her work is included in public and private collections. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including a Painting Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2012. Harris has served as a visiting lecturer or instructor at institutions including the University of Iowa, Mount Mercy University, the Wassaic Project, Booklyn Artists Alliance, and Public Space One.
Rachel Kauff is a visual artist working in print media, sculpture, and installation. She was the 2014 Iowa Arts Fellow, a 2012 intern-in-residence at the Women's Studio Workshop and a 2010 Gordon Arts Fellow. She is an MFA candidate in printmaking and sculpture at the University of Iowa.
Seriously, what's with the name?
Seriously, what's with the name?
Chicken Tractor is an artist centric nonprofit organization located in Des Moines, Iowa. We are committed to enriching the visual arts ecosystem of our city by creating professional development opportunities for artists. Through free educational programming, art field trips, micro grants, a noncommercial gallery and, eventually, an artist residency program, we believe that we can help artists create better opportunities for their art and their careers. And that is good for everyone!
Chicken tractors are mobile chicken coops that urban farmers use to let their chickens range safely. Even the most difficult land will become verdant if the chickens are allowed to be chickens on it. Put your coop down on a terrible spot of your yard and a few months later your land will be fertile and rich.
Artists are, in many ways, just like those chickens. Over and over again, artists have gone into the cheapest, least glamorous parts of their cities out of necessity, created studios and communities and brought energy and desirability to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, when the neighborhood becomes hip, the artists are frequently priced out. Chicken Tractor would like to turn this predisposition into something positive for the artists and their city. Metaphorically, we plop down on a section of the arts ecosystem of Des Moines that is a bit sparse and make it rich.
Our programming offers greater access to the broader context of contemporary art. Six or so professional development workshops per year range from "How to Write an Artist Statement that Doesn't Suck," to a mock grant panel review with the Iowa Arts Council. Exhibitions work with artists from across the country to offer Central Iowa exposure to work that is happening all around us. They also offers local artists a chance to be inspired and grow their networks into neighboring markets. Roadtrips organize an easy way to spend time with new friends and artists and see the art work in nearby communities. Behind the scenes programming is connecting arts professionals throughout the Midwest to elevate the arts across our region, and to heighten awareness of the role Central Iowa can play. Some programs, like Bridge Work, do all of these things simultaneously.
As a young nonprofit, we are focused on providing opportunities for artists that take more elbow grease than capital. We coordinate carpool trips to museum shows that are within driving distance of Des Moines, bring in speakers like the Iowa Arts Council to present about applying for grants, and run pop-up art shows for emerging and mid-career artists who aren't represented by a local gallery. We are building towards our goals of having a dedicated gallery space which can also host our educational programs and an artist residency program that will bring in 2-3 artists at a time from out-of-state and put them in studios that are embedded within a larger, local artist studio structure. This is an ambitious goal for us, but we are passionate about it. We feel that one of the most important links that is missing from the Iowa art scene, one of the things that is holding a lot of artists back, is a greater dialog with other artists and institutions outside of the state. It's a warm, welcoming place to live, but its isolation from the larger art world has a cooling effect on artists' practice and careers. We want our locals to have the opportunity to forge real relationships with artists from outside the community in the hopes that some of those relationships will not only be fruitful for the artist-in-residence but for the resident artists.
Operational expenses are now very generously supported by Bravo Greater Des Moines. Financial support for Bridge Work comes from a Field Grant from the great folk at Common Field. The 2017 Microgrant Dinner is underwritten entirely by the Des Moines Arts Festival.