Art exhibit examines farm animals in modern context

Farm animals are a familiar sight in N’West Iowa.

Naomi Friend takes this well-known subject and dives deeper with her meticulously planned and compellings compositions currently on display at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji.

The exhibit, “Naomi Friend: Heirlooms,” is on display through March 9 in the Weaver Lobby Gallery and McIlrath Landing Gallery.

Each piece combines the antique photo process of cyanotype, giving the work a distinct blue color palette.

And as the region was plunged into subzero temperatures last week, the blue color palette probably seemed even more fitting.

“It’s really interesting how she made these,” said Danielle Clouse Gast, visual arts director at Pearson Lakes Art Center. “They’re not just an image printed on the canvas and done. There are multiple steps and applications.”

Friend has accumulated a trove of negatives to use for her artwork. Some is her own photography. Some is from the archives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Negatives are chosen specifically for highlighting the farm animals, their environment and relationship with humans and with the modern world.

“There are up to 20 negatives in one piece,” Clouse Gast said. “A lot of visitors I have noticed like to find and search through them. You can really explore these pieces.”

The animals themselves are highlighted with a splash of copper or gold spray paint that plays perfectly with the blue tint of the cyanotype.

Each pig, rabbit, chicken, swan or cow was hand painted in acrylic.

“More than just images — there are different textures and patterns, so she’s incorporating all those and talks about taking care of living things and preserving what we have here,” Clouse Gast said.

“There’s a lot to explore in each invididual piece and an element of research, interest and exploration on the artist’s level over years of time that all resolves itself in individual pieces of art.”

Each piece of artwork in the exhibit is for sale and available to become part of someone’s personal collection at home.

Viewed in the gallery, or on a wall at home, Naomi’s work reminds us of our reliance on, and relationship with, our farm animal friends.