A photographic portrait of prizewinning farm animals will be this year's highlighted art at the Minnesota State Fair.
The portrait, by Minneapolis fine-art photographer R.J. Kern, features last year's "Supreme Champions" — the top male and female open-class exhibition winners in the goat, swine, poultry, sheep, llama, rabbit, beef cattle, draft horse and stock dog categories.
The fair selects a piece of art every year to display at the fair's Fine Arts Center and on fair posters. Kern is the first photographer the fair has chosen as its official commemorative artist.
Kern began the work at last year's fair. Right after the animals were awarded championships, they were escorted to his studio on the fairgrounds to get their pictures taken. A short time-lapse video at bit.ly/2KCW7Qz captures the sometimes comic efforts by a group of humans to wrangle the animals for their portraits.
He later combined the individual images into one print, so all of the animals appear to be standing together in a row. "It's kind of hard to take yourself seriously when you're around animals," Kern said Saturday. "You have to have patience and a sense of humor. You can't pose an animal."
His photographs have a painterly look that he said is created by soft, diffused lighting. "I'm heavily inspired by European landscape painters in light and composition," he said.
Kern's portraits of livestock, sometimes alongside people, have been exhibited around the world. On his website, his work is described as "exploring ideas of home, ancestry, and a sense of place through the interaction of people, animals, and cultural landscapes."
"I'm interested in finding beauty in the common as opposed to the exotic," he said.
Posters and prints from previous years can be purchased through the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.