Deibler's Illustrations Highlight
Vanishing Farm Species
October 18, 1999
hile flipping through The New Yorker magazine one morning, an ad caught Cora Lynn Deibler's eye. It read: "Antique Breed Pig for Adoption."
Now that's unusual, she thought. Deibler, an illustrator and assistant professor of art, was familiar with heirloom vegetables and endangered animal species, but antique pigs were another story. She read on.
"I was curious about what antique or rare breeds of animals were, what they looked like and where they were found," Deibler says.
She began her quest for information, reading everything she could find on the subject. "It was like pulling a thread that unravels a sweater," she says. "The more I learned, the more I wanted to find out." Her curiosity ultimately led her to pursue a project to which she has so far devoted nearly 18 months: "The Art of Rare Breeds, a
Visual Exploration of Farm Animal Conservation," a project devoted to illustrating images of rare and endangered farm animals.
Today, agribusiness favors a high-yield, highly consistent animal, Deibler explains. As a result, animals lacking genetic diversity populate corporate farms. Characteristics that are good for production now may become undesirable if farming conditions change. In the 1970s, a movement began in England to conserve dwindling species of domestic animals and it continues today.
Armed with her camera, sketchbook and paints, Deibler traveled around New England and the Midwest, visiting farms, talking to breeders, observing, photographing and sketching animals such as Tennessee fainting goats, large black pigs and Cotswold sheep. She hoped to "capture some of their spirit, character, and individuality."
Each one of Deibler's ink and watercolor paintings has hand-lettered text. "I almost can't separate the text that runs through my head from the images," she says. Some of her finished pieces have been exhibited at the American Livestock Breed Conservatory and at the University. She is now working on a children's book on the subject that will provide information in a "fun, lighthearted, almost conversational manner."
Deibler says the rare breeds project is perfect for what she tries to do as an illustrator: communicate with text and images. And humor - an element in most of her illustrations - "is something people like and respond to," she says. "If I can capture someone with a charming or humorous element, then I can deliver the message - which is really quite serious. You'll find that a lot in
editorial venues, where an art editor will use humor to lighten up a heavy topic. It makes the person reading the article a little more open to what you're trying to say."
Deibler's fascination with pictures and words and "how they work together" began when she was a child. She enjoyed reading, drawing and doing puzzles. "I think these are the things that set you up early to enjoy illustration," she says, "because as an illustrator, very often it's a visual puzzle that you're trying to solve." She says she "fell in love" with two things: biographies of historical figures and "anything that had a humorous element."
"By the time I was 10 years old, I had a deep fascination with Mad magazine. It was everything I wanted in pictures. I loved those humorous drawings and there was so much to read along with it."
Coordinator of the illustration program at UConn, Deibler joined the faculty in 1997. She received an MFA in illustration in 1995 from Syracuse University and taught at Truman State University from 1995-97. For the past 12 years, she has had a freelance illustration studio with business partner Patti Argoff. They specialize in editorial, institutional, children's and children's educational illustration. Clients have included The Washington Post, The New York Times, Toyota America and The Weekly Reader. Deibler's work has been exhibited at solo, invitational and group shows.