Why cows? I am often asked. For me the cow is the symbol for America’s landscape; our resources, history and our cultural beliefs. During the years while out of school I began to work on farms taking care of livestock. I wanted to know firsthand what kind of effort was needed to grow and raise the food I eat. The farmers I met during this exploration are incredibly community minded, trading resources and labor with one another, and taking the utmost care to be good stewards of the land. It is this sense of connection, or rather disconnect from it that has become the focus of my art. In this country, as people have favored urban migration over the agrarian lifestyle we have forfeited responsibility to care for our resources, handing that “burden” over to industry. The disappearing family farm model not only provides an income, but it is a homestead, and the health of that environment is just as important to the rancher or farmer as it is to the livestock living there. Cattle are one of America’s greatest industries in history, from the birth of Chicago via the stock yards and railroad, to the great beef bonanza, to the Cattleman’s Association which was integral to the success of the California gold rush. Cows have symbolized the prosperity and domestication of our land. Nowadays images of the American pasture have been abstracted, repurposed for product consumption. We are sold a belief that by proxy we still have democracy to make a difference in how our food is handled, just by spending a few bucks more you can feel good knowing your beef was grass fed. It has become so easy to be complicit, to claim ignorance over our impact and depletion of our resources. Through my art I am looking to reestablish the connection between value and stewardship, so that we can as a country sustain economic and community health.
-- Elliott Kayser
Elliott Kayser is a sculptor and current resident artist at the Mesa Arts Center. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Alfred University in 2007, and just completed his MFA in Ceramics this past spring from ASU. While between degrees, Elliott moved to Ann Arbor, MI where he worked at a ceramic tile company and volunteered on small family farms. His art over the past decade has been about the values learned in the fields, taking care of both the animals and the people within the agricultural community.