August 14, 2023

Kari Varner (American b. 1991 Overland Park, KS) is an artist whose work explores representations of the landscape through the photographic image. Kari received her BFA in Electronic Media Arts Design from the University of Denver and her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. Kari currently teaches photography at Binghamton University in New York. She has previously taught at Santa Reparata International School of Art, Florence Institute of Art and Design and the University of Denver. Kari has led workshops at Studio Art College International and Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Her recent work has focused on humans’ impact on the landscape, particularly through industrialized agricultural and waterway channelization. Using satellite imagery, historical photographic processes, and experimental image making, Kari seeks to portray the ways that we have profoundly altered our land and water.

Wallace County, composed of 320 dye-sublimation printed pieces on textiles of varying translucencies, depicts every center-pivot field in one western Kansas county. The 320 pieces, printed during the residency, will be assembled and stitched into one 5 by 5-foot quilt.

The county, which serves as the focus of the project, sits on the border with Colorado and is notable for having lost 80% of its water from the Ogallala Aquifer since the beginning of large-scale extraction following World War II. While the aquifer level in Wallace County has fallen 7 feet in the past year alone, this arid county is emblematic of the water scarcity plaguing the entire region.

Using satellite imagery, each field was collected and edited by erasing the dry or eroded sections of the field. The resulting quilt, layers the fields together into one composition that reveals the multitude and uniformity of the landscape. The form of the quilt speaks to the significant historical, cultural and artistic role of the quilt on the High Plains.

Pieces of the quilt rendered on materials including organza, chiffon, satin and polyester knits emphasizes the loss of soil and fragmentation of the landscape resulting from intensive agricultural methods. As in much of my practice, Wallace County affords me the opportunity of combining contemporary and traditional image making techniques in my ongoing engagement with natural and human-made forms of erosion. – Kari Varner

Rosignono Solvay I, Photogravure Work Sample.

Rosignono Solvay II, Photogravure Work Sample.

Kari, Rosignono Solvay II.

Kari, gathering files for Dye-Sublimation printing.

Kari, Initial Dye-Sub Test.