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Faculty with artwork on exhibition (full statement)

Jen Dietrich

Seed Project, 2010
Mixed media, 10” x 36”


Artist's Statement

I am fascinated with American culture and the endearing components that form our identity.  Since 1996, I have concentrated on the dominant theme of American identity.  This exhibition is part of an ongoing project that looks at parts of American culture and the elements once considered archetypal icons but are now fading, soon to be lost. This is a multifaceted project called, “Lost Icons: American Myth and Identity”, with a variety of subtopics (separate bodies of work) including: The American Barn, The Kennedy era, and Baseball.


This body of work began as an all-consuming obsession with the Kennedy family and slowly merged into my own genealogical identity. This work investigates the way even basic experiences are shaped by desire and memory. This series combines two influential themes from my childhood – farm life and the Kennedy family. Most of my relatives were from the Midwest specifically, Iowa farmers. As a child I was exposed to large-scale farm production - soybean, corn and dairy farming. I vividly recall details from the farm environment – milking apparatuses, vacuum milking machines, stanchions, feedlot, combines, pickers, tillage, cultivator, harrow, seed drill, corn harvester, huller, etc. Much of my visual references and source material is based on this imagery.


These words and ideas formed the foundation of my adult dialogue. Often, the political discussions would fade into stories about my family – seamlessly overlapping into layers of family memories. At one point the stories merged – the political and cultural icons became as familiar as family members. Like aunts and uncles once visited as a child, then with age grew distant. Through the connective tissue of memory and true fiction, the Kennedy family and I remain close. The layers of memories are so intertwined they’ve become part of my family history.


Our ancestral stories preserve the myth of family legacy and help connect us to the world. At times it’s the retelling of the stories that brings purpose and meaning. Placing ourselves within them gives greater sense of attachment. Everyone alive at the time of Kennedy’s assassination can recall the place they were when he was shot. People are so eager to retell the story. The Kennedy’s were like distant relatives I never got to see. So anything that happened to them also happened to me.

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