Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515)
DES MOINES – Visitors
to the State Historical Building are being asked to donate food, diapers and paper
products for needy Iowans during the run of a new exhibit that opens Thursday
through January 9, 2006.
Products most in need include boxed meals, cold cereal, 100 percent fruit juice,
canned fruits, diapers, paper towels, paper plates, toilet paper, tissue and baby
wipes. Visitors are asked to bring donations to the “Big Red Barn”
located in the Historical Building’s first-floor atrium beginning Thursday.
The Historical Building is at 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’
Historic East Village. Items will be donated to the Food Bank of Iowa.
The food drive is being held in conjunction with a new exhibit featuring the work
of celebrated Iowa photographer, A.M. “Pete” Wettach (1901-1976),
whose photographs captured the essence of rural Iowa between 1925 and 1960.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for guests and visitors to provide assistance
to needy Iowans as the holiday season approaches and to learn about the golden
years of farming in Iowa,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Anita
Walker said. “Nearly everyone has a connection to farming in his or her
own family, or finds themselves dependent on the products generated by farming.
Pete Wettach’s photos promote our connection to the land and to farming
while allowing viewers to reminisce about a rural heritage that is rapidly disappearing.”
The exhibit, Farm Life
in Iowa: Photographs by A.M. Wettach, was organized by the University of
Iowa Museum of Art and contains photographs from the collection of the State Historical
Society of Iowa.
Featuring 52 black-and-white photographs
taken by Wettach, the exhibit explores 35 of the most revolutionary years for
farming as a way of life in Iowa. The exhibition is a reflection of the past generation
of Iowa farmers and the consequences of the philosophies and events that affected
Wettach's photographs provide historical
evidence of farming advances in Iowa and honor traditions that stressed independence
and self–sufficiency. His subjects included obsolete farming methods such
as planting corn with a check wire and buck rake, haymaking, handy gadgets, and
poignant portraits of farmers and their families. Through six decades, Wettach
took some 60,000 photographs, many with a Graflex camera that used 5- by 7-inch
negatives. His photos recorded the daily lives of Iowa farm families in the mid-20th
century and are a visual history of life on the farm during the Depression, World
War II and the post-war years.
In addition to providing portraits
of men, women and children at work on the farm, the Wettach collection catalogs
the farming methods, crops, animals, machinery, tools, field work and day-to-day
tasks of the family farm. His photos tell a straightforward and realistic story
about farm households, family life, community activities, and the roles of men,
women and children in a rural society that has disappeared from the landscape.
The images also document the changes in farm life brought about by the "new"
innovations and technology of each decade. Because the photos span decades, this
exhibit is in part a documentary of the social and technological changes in farming
across the years
“Here we have an Iowa man,
going out as a loan officer for the Farm Security Administration, and taking the
opportunity of his travels to capture some of the most revealing images of the
era,” Walker said. “His ability to capture the determination and pride
of Iowa farm families is not equaled. The images he was able to preserve will
forever tell the rich stories of an important time in Iowa’s farming heritage.”
While employed by the Farm
Security Administration, and for more than 20 years after, Wettach worked out
of his home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as a freelance photographer. His photographs
appeared in Wallaces’ Farmer, Farm Journal, National Geographic
and The Saturday Evening Post.
The exhibition was curated by Kathleen
A. Edwards, curator of prints, drawings, photographs and new media at the UI Museum
of Art. The large-format photographs were printed by Steven Tatum, UI Museum of
Art photographer, from Wettach’s original negatives. More than 10,000 negatives
taken by Wettach are housed at the State Historical Society of Iowa offices in
Iowa City. Farm Life in Iowa is funded by the General Education Fund of the University
of Iowa through the Office of the Provost.
“For Iowans, living in a state
where 90 percent of the land is still farmed, Wettach’s photographs are
invaluable historic records and part of a common visual memory linking the past
to the present,” Walker said.
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