The first thing you will notice about my new novel, PIG FARM, released just this month, is the front cover.  And then, the shocking back cover.  The provocative art of Amber Hansen has inspired my writing and speaking. It has pushed me to take chances, to stretch comfort zones, and to break rules in an effort to shine light on wrong headed and destructive policies.

I first met Amber while I was serving as President of Drury University. My wife Betty, who was studying in a Masters of Studio Art program at the time, said “you’ve got to see this!”  She hustled me over to the Pool Art Center on campus and led me into the main exhibit, featuring the art of Amber Hansen.

Amber Hansen

Credit: Amber Hansen

The first thing that greeted me was a huge 6 foot by 6 foot brown shaded sketch of a family on a float trip complete with fishing poles, paddles, net, and clouded sun in the background.   They were also perched on a wave of pigs and their excrement.  It literally took my breath away, and still does. Thankfully I’ve never been on a float trip like that one!

Amber Hansen

Amber Hansen

Amber Hansen is a filmmaker, muralist, visual artist, and musician creating socially engaged and community-based artwork throughout the Midwest. Establishing a dialogue between her formal education and the ethics of her rural upbringing, Amber’s work promotes the value of creative engagement for all ages while raising questions about the ethics of animal welfare and humans’ relationship with food.

I am no art critic, but I’m intrigued with Amber’s ability to be  provocative, thought provoking, and even evoke a cringe or two, while  comforting with other images that recall the past, and human interactions with animals and the land.  It comes naturally to her as she grew up on a farm in Iowa.

Amber is currently an Assistant Professor at South Dakota University where she teaches painting.  We share many of the same concerns about threats to the environment and she has kindly partnered with me on this project.

Beyond the unusual images she has allowed me to utilize on the dust jacket and in the final chapter of Pig Farm, you can see more of her creativity on her website,

Thank you Amber!

Coming next, October 30?  EVERYONE IS A LEADER

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