Pittsburgh gallery highlights fading way of life with American Portraits: The Family Farm | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh gallery highlights fading way of life with American Portraits: The Family Farm

click to enlarge Pittsburgh gallery highlights fading way of life with American Portraits: The Family Farm
Image courtesy of Contemporary Craft
American Portraits: The Family Farm at BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery
In Downtown Pittsburgh, in the lobby of the Steel Plaza T-Station, a new contactless art exhibit is on display.

American Portraits: The Family Farm is now on view in the BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery as part of Contemporary Craft’s ongoing series Food Justice: Growing a Healthier Community through Art. The solo exhibition by fiber artist Patty Kennedy-Zafred looks into the history of American family farming and its “rapid decline" due to the modern-day agricultural industry, according to a press release.

By using art books, and quilts screen-printed with archival images, the show focuses on family farms as an "important element of American history that cannot be replaced and should not be forgotten."


The release goes on to say that, during the 1900s, almost half of the U.S. population worked on farms, whereas today that number has dropped to only 2% of the population.

“Being raised in Ohio, where we were surrounded by fields and small family farms, this series is an homage to a lifestyle and time period that no longer exists,” says Kennedy-Zafred.
click to enlarge Pittsburgh gallery highlights fading way of life with American Portraits: The Family Farm
Image courtesy of Contemporary Craft
American Portraits: The Family Farm at BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery
A Point Park University alum, Kennedy-Zafred has had her work showcased and awarded over the last 30 years. She says American Portraits was influenced by the Library of Congress' Farm Security Administration Photograph Collection, part of an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944.

The combination of photography and fabric makes the exhibit unique, along with its dedication to depicting an array of subjects. Black-and-white photos are screen-printed on vintage feed sacks and hand-dyed fabrics. Men, women, and children of various ages and races are represented throughout, providing a more diverse tapestry of family farming than what has typically been portrayed.

American Portraits is a companion to Food Justice: Growing a Healthier Community through Art, an exhibition in Contemporary Craft's Lawrenceville space. Now on view through March 19, 2022, the show is described on the gallery's website as being meant to "critically explore complex human issues that can shape and influence positive change in food security."


American Portraits will continue through spring 2022, providing a free, highly accessible, socially distanced space for those to experience a show described by Contemporary Craft as "often reflecting faces of pride and dignity, sometimes under challenging circumstances."

American Portraits: The Family Farm. Open daily until 12 a.m. Continues through April 4, 2022. BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery. 500 Grant St., Downtown. Free. contemporarycraft.org/exhibitions

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