Renowned artist Mel Ziegler has a new show opening September 19 at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska. Expanding on the American Gothic sentiment, Ziegler takes a contemporary approach to the classic American landscape. The Vanderbilt professor and Art Department chair spent the past year traveling through the Midwest to document America’s rural farmlands. He set up and photographed light events that illuminated stretches of crops during the night. The photographs reflect on the idea that farming is a quintessentially American profession. The bright lights add a cinematic effect to the farmlands, emphasizing the profundity and expansiveness of food production. Some might say the lights add an eerie quality to the landscapes. A farmer himself, Ziegler explains,
“Farming is full of dichotomies and contradictions. We think of it as peaceful and serene, but it is also extremely violent. We kill animals, have equipment that violently cuts, crimps, tears, rips, and tills. What is serene about that? Farming has constant ups and downs [with] no getting ahead [and] no end in sight. Few people realize that unless they have lived it.” (Source)
Ziegler is also interested in the social dynamics of farming communities. The friendliness found in the close-knit communities of rural farming towns inspires optimism in Ziegler’s work. However, his work also confronts ownership conflicts and environmental depletion in farming communities. Ultimately, Ziegler’s works provide a unique perspective on the ever-controversial American landscape.
To learn more about Mel Ziegler and his works, visit his website here.