Kelsey Weyerbacher: The States Project: Montana
Kelsey Weyerbacher kicks ass, plain and simple. Surrounded by strong females she grew up on their farm on the banks of the Yellowstone River. I recently had the pleasure of spending time with Kelsey at her family farm in Eastern Montana as we began working on a project together inspired by frontier photographer Evelyn Cameron. The Weyerbacher’s welcomed me and made me feel at home. I witnessed an incredible sunset standing in their field and had the best night’s sleep with my head cradled on an embroidered pillowcase—oh the sweetness of that pillowcase representing the “women’s art” in the western frontier. This project, Those Women at Kinsey, Kelsey has utilized that sweetness along with spitfire highlighting the role women in her family have played. With her roots planted four generations back on the farm and her ties to the tradition of quilting and fabric arts in her family, she embraces the histories of her family and opens up the dialogue about the often overlooked and under appreciated role females played in the western frontier. Kelsey’s imagery speaks to me about her pride in family, her gender and her place—this is her Montana.
Born a fourth generation farmer in Kinsey, Montana, Kelsey Weyerbacher graduated from Montana State University in May of 2016 with degrees in English-Writing and Film & Photography.
Raised amongst tall corn and sagebrush, Kelsey’s parents ensured that all their children were raised equally, despite gender, influencing her work to include praises of women in historically masculine settings and to critique the cultural stereotypes of women in cowboy culture.
Each of Kelsey’s pieces is created by hand, whether as fabric art or paper cut images. Her fabric art pieces begin with scanning of historical images to be printed on cotton material, quilted as squares, embroidered by hand, bound by hand, and mounted in frames she makes. Her fine art cutting pieces are created with historical images enlarged and layered, to be cut and reimagined as new photographs. Every piece is unique, and one-of-a-kind, resulting in conversation surrounding feminism, Montana, and the boundaries of photography as a medium.
Kelsey’s work was featured in a Summer 2016 interview with the Big Sky Journal and the March 2017 Foundry Collective fine art show for Women’s Month. Kelsey will be attending graduate school beginning this fall, continuing her research involving feminist rhetoric in the American West.
Kinsey, Montana was developed by the Farm Security Administration as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal in the mid-1930’s. In Kinsey’s 80+ year history, the tractors have modernized, but the river-valley farming is still solely dependent on the irrigation waters of the Yellowstone. Much like the sediment that washes down the river to eventually become the topsoil in the fields, the people of Eastern Montana have risen from the river banks, resilient in the prairie landscape.
River water muddy with a mixture of stubbornness and kindness runs through the veins of these people. The women of my family worked alongside the men in the fields, but their work was rarely, if ever, recognized. Instead, the fruits of their labor were attributed to the creation of quilts, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and other works deemed as “domestic” and “female,” rather than the crops and livelihood that the males provided. Utilizing my historical family portraits of matriarchs printed on cotton material, quilted as my mother and grandmother taught me, I have created a new photographic representation of my female history in a reclamation of these fabric arts, along with the hand-cut images representative of the physical labor those women contributed to their family farms.
By turning these images inside-out and creating a new narrative of my familial history, I began assembling a portrait of myself. I am a fourth generation female farmer, shaped by the men and women I was raised amongst. Those Women at Kinsey utilizes the historic arts of quilting, embroidery, and needlework, previously considered domestic, and the physical layering of my work to resist the gendered stereotype of the woman in the American West.
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Lauren Grabelle: The States Project: MontanaJune 11th, 2017
Patrick Warner: The States Project: MontanaJune 10th, 2017
Matthew Hamon: The States Project: MontanaJune 9th, 2017
Kelsey Weyerbacher: The States Project: MontanaJune 8th, 2017
Christina Z. Anderson: The States Project: MontanaJune 7th, 2017