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Gary Kelley Paints Immersive Illustrations of the Dust Bowl

Image courtesy of Gary Kelley

Gary Kelley is an illustrator and painter based in Iowa who works have been published in Time Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and Rolling Stone. His latest project, illustrating the book Next Year: Hope in the Dust by Ruth Vander Zee, centers around the Dust Bowl, the catastrophic wind storms in the 1930s which displaced native prairie protecting the soil of the Great Plains from wind erosion.

"I immersed myself in the visuals by first watching Ken Burns' really great documentary on the Dust Bowl," Kelley says. "Of course, also in my studio, I have over 1,000 books on photography from the Great Depression... but I did not want the reader, who has seen the iconic photographs from that era, to look at my book and say, 'Oh, I know where that came from. I've seen that photograph.' I wanted to take the subject matter of the photograph and imagine it in my own sense."

During the third segment of this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with photographer Gary Kelley about Next Year: Hope in the Dust, as well as his life in Iowa, and the Halloween concert he's working on with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony taking place October 29th.

Gary Kelley Paints Immersive Illustrations of the Dust Bowl
Charity Nebbe speaks with Gary Kelley.

During the first two segments of this hour of Talk of Iowa, we hear from Mara McKay, who is the director of the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace Museum in Boone, Iowa, and Kathi Sterling, who is a docent at the museum. It will be closing it’s doors for the season with no firm plans to reopen at the end of this month. Michael Moraine, communications manager for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, also joins the conversation. 

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa