Transferring wheat from hopper to truck, Kiowa County, Kansas, June 2012 by Larry Schwarm

Larry Schwarm: Kansas Farmers

Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court

This exhibition of 50 photographs by artist Larry Schwarm explores the contemporary realities of farm life in Kansas. Kansas Farmers conveys the lives of Kansas farmers to an audience largely disconnected from agriculture through geographic distance and increasingly mechanized modes of production. From 2010 to 2015, Schwarm served as a collaborator on the Kansas-based National Science Foundation research project titled “Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers' Land Use Decisions.” During this time, Schwarm turned his lens toward the Kansas landscape and its inhabitants with a focus on the way these farmers represent themselves. Schwarm’s contributions reveal the importance of artistic research within a major interdisciplinary research project that investigated humans’ environmentally based actions.

Schwarm’s photographic work often emphasizes signs, billboards, and public murals as a way to illustrate how presentations of cultural identity, regulations, or acts of vandalism become representations of local cultures and places. Schwarm relies on the stark horizontality of a Kansas skyline, the monotony of monocultures that appear deceptively flat, and the sparseness of rural populations to tell stories about Kansas and its cultural landscape through his images. These depicted stories are part of the larger research effort conducted by scientists working at Kansas universities and the exhibition seeks to reveal aspects of that collaboration. Schwarm’s photographs contain the uniquely local qualities of specific characters, places, and practices that reveal the spirit of this region. Larry Schwarm: Kansas Farmers is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue published by the University Press of Kansas.

This exhibition is supported by KU Student Senate and the Linda Inman Bailey Exhibitions Fund. “The Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers’ Land Use Decisions” project acknowledges funding from the National Science Foundation Grant # 787-316, Award No. EPS-0903806, and matching support from the State of Kansas through the Kansas Board of Regents.

Selected images