Visions of Iowa: Arthur Geisert, Country Road ABC



On today’s farm, B is for barn cat, E is for erosion, G is for grinding feed, and I is for… inoculate? In 26 beautifully detailed spreads in Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America’s Farmland, the acclaimed illustrator Arthur Geisert takes readers on an intimate and often humorous journey—following Iowa County Road Y31—through the ins and outs of America’s farmland. Geisert’s artwork for Country Road ABC will be exhibited at the Figge this spring.

This isn’t your grandfather’s farm book. Sure, it features pigs, hay and other familiar symbols, but you’ll also see things relevant to present-day farm communities, such as the volunteer fire department, winter afternoons spent at the local bar, and the annual Fourth of July parade through town. Along the bottom of each page is a continuous panorama, totaling 45 feet of art, depicting the yearly cycle of life on a farm.

Geisert was inspired to create Country Road ABC by his neighbors in Bernard, an isolated farming community of 98 residents, located in northeast Iowa. “When I first moved to Iowa, I soon became aware that I was surrounded by people who had a firsthand experience with farming, and I wanted to make the most of their expertise,” Geisert said. “At the time I was completing another project but I began to think about how I could take advantage all of the first-rate farming knowledge of my neighbors. I didn’t know how to provide a framework for the information until I came up with the idea of the panorama.”

In creating Country Road ABC, Geisert relied on photographs, sketches and his memory; his neighbors ensured his sketches were accurate and relevant.

Geisert has created 22 children’s books and received numerous awards, including The New York Times Best Illustrated Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. His work has been exhibited in such places as the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. The New Yorker and Horn Book magazine also have featured his illustrations.

In college, the native Californian majored in fine art, focusing primarily on sculpture and bronze casting. Etching, however, always interested Geisert, and when he finished school, he became a full-time artist and etcher. When he moved to Bernard, Iowa, he transformed an old bank into an etching studio and his home.

Not one to approach life too seriously, Geisert is currently working on “a book of silliness and nonsense” for a Paris-based publisher. “It describes through a series of images the adventures of a village of pigs that have to cope with an enormous dandelion and an erupting volcano,” he said.

He just can’t seem to get away from those pigs.

Exhibition sponsored by Butler Insurance Service, Inc.
Additional sponsorship provided in memory of Lesley H. Menninger


Learn more about Arthur Geisert and his work.