SOUTH BEND, IN.- The Snite Museum of Art
announces the opening of the exhibition: Fourteen Places to Eat: a Narrative: Photographing Rural Culture in the Midwest, opening on Sunday, May 31,2009.
Kay Westhues is a photographer who is interested in documenting the ways in which rural tradition and history are interpreted and transformed in the present day. Kay shares her intention for this series of work:
"For the past five years I have been working on a series of photographs depicting rural culture in Indiana and the Midwest. This project was inspired by my memories of growing up on a farm in Walkerton, Indiana, and observing first hand the shifting cultural identity that has occurred over time and through changing economic development. I moved back to Walkerton in order to help care for my aging parents in 2001.
These photos mirror my personal history, but I am also capturing a people's history grounded in a sense of place. My intention is to celebrate rural life, without idealizing it.
The overall theme since the project's inception is the effect of the demise of local economies that have historically sustained rural communities. Many of my images contain the remains of an earlier time, when locally owned stores and family farms were the norm. Today chain stores and agribusiness are prevalent in rural communities. These communities are struggling to thrive in the global economy, and my images reflect that reality.
Most recently I have focused on the complex relationship between farmers and domesticated animals. I make many of my images at Animal Swap Meets and sale barns, places where animals are bought and sold. Family farms are quickly being replaced by large-scale food production, and these events still draw smaller farmers and the local people who support them. "
Why fourteen places to eat?
"One of my biggest complaints after moving to Walkerton was that there were not enough places to eat out. Or, rather, practically no places to eat out. So I was happy when news arrived that a new restaurant was opening there. Imagine my surprise when I read a letter to the editor in the local paper against the new restaurant. The letter stated we already had enough places to eat in this town. The writer counted a total of fourteen places to eat, which included four restaurants, three gas stations, four bars, a truck stop, a convenience mart, and a bowling alley."
Ms. Westhues studied photography at Rhode Island School of Design and Indiana University, Bloomington. She has a BS degree in Photography and Ethnocentrism from the Indiana University Individualized Major Program (1994), and an MS in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University (1998). She currently lives in Elkhart, Indiana, and is completing a five-year project photographing rural culture in the Midwest. This series is a visual exploration of the ways rural identity is defined in contemporary society.