Voices of American Farm Women

October 21 – November 30, 2008 —

In the past, our views of farming and its influence on American life and culture have focused on the roles that men have played as farmers, while women’s contributions to agricultural production were largely ignored, perpetuating the stereotype of the “farmer’s wife.” The photographic exhibition Voices of American Farm Women presents a contemporary perspective on women in agriculture. Photographer Cynthia Vagnetti has documented women from across the United States whose farming techniques promote environmental responsibility, economic stability, and community well-being. Voices of American Farm Women is toured by ExhibitsUSA, which is the national touring division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization based in Kansas City, Missouri.

The exhibition weaves together the power of image and word by featuring selections from oral history interviews conducted with the subjects of Vagnetti’s work. The 30 striking black-and-white photographs explore a diverse group of women and their relationship to the land. Their voices narrate a multifaceted view of work, family, and community. Strong opinions on many topics − including farm work, childcare, and housework − dispel many misconceptions about women who work the land.

Voices of American Farm Women is part of a larger documentary project conducted by Vagnetti, who has a long-standing commitment to sustainable agriculture, rural communities, and related issues. She has produced numerous multimedia projects and photography exhibitions, and she is co-author of People Sustaining the Land. Her focus in the past decade is inspired by the work of Farm Security Administration photographers, most notably Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee.

Voices of American Farm Women is curated by Janet Dykema, director of public programs at the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The exhibition is organized and circulated by ExhibitsUSA, whose purpose is to create access to an array of arts and humanities exhibitions, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities.