The Unchosen Ones
-RJ Kern, Photographer

Exhibit: April 3 to May 30,2020

Interview with R.J. Kern and Heidi Holtan & John Bauer (KAXE) >>

Play Video

One isn’t born a winner or loser, but a chooser.

This theme is explored in this series. As we look at them, they look back, allowing us to think about how we choose winners and the repercussions for the ones not chosen.

Visit for more on the artist, his books and photography.

Instagram Live event: May 22, 2020 @kernphoto >>

The exhibit, “The Unchosen Ones” takes place on the sidelines of county fair animal contests in Minnesota in 2016. These county fairs lead up to the Minnesota State Fair, one of the largest and best-attended expositions in the world.

The work debuted as a feature in National Geographic magazine (November 2017), has been exhibited in venues such as the National Portrait Gallery (London, UK) and the Yixian International Photography Festival (Anhui, China). Awards and accolades include PDN’s 30 2018, Critical Mass 2018 Top 50, CENTER 2017 Choice Award Winner, Curator’s Choice (First Place), and two Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (2016, 2018). The BBC, PBS, and the Boston Globe have featured the work as well. The wide response to the work underscores the interest that the general public has in art and the relationship to science.

The Artist Book Edition, The Unchosen Ones, will be available for sale directly from Kern at the reception. It includes essays by independent curator Alison Nordström, PhD and Joe Scapanski, Minnesota State Fair Board of Managers. Designed by Matthew Steaffens.

RJ KernR. J. Kern (b. 1978) is an American artist whose work explores ideas of home, ancestry, and a sense of place through the interaction of people, animals, and cultural landscapes.

His work has been exhibited in a number of notable exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art (Tbilisi, Georgia), the National Portrait Gallery (London, UK), the Yixian International Photography Festival (Anhui, China), and solo exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography (Boston, MA) and the Plains Art Museum (Fargo, ND). Kern’s work and books have been exhibited at art fairs such as Paris Photo and Classic Photographs LA, as well as at galleries nationwide, most recently Klompching Gallery in NY, Burnet Fine Art & Advisory in Minneapolis, and Afterimage Gallery in Dallas. Awards and accolades include PDN’s 30 2018, Critical Mass 2018 Top 50, CENTER 2017 Choice Award Winner (Curator’s Choice, First Place), the 2017 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (Finalist), and three Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (2016, 2018, 2020). He was the Commemorative Artist for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair.

Kern’s work has been presented in a number of publications, including a feature in National Geographic (November 2017), with his series The Unchosen Ones and Out To Pasture. Kern published his first monograph with Kehrer Verlag titled, The Sheep and the Goats, awarded one of “The Most Beautiful German Books 2018” by Stiftung Buchkunst and awarded Bronze by the prestigious Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2018-19.

R. J. Kern is a fiscal year 2016, 2018, and 2020 recipient of the Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Sponsored by our Business Partner, First National Bank Bemidji

2020 First National Bank Bemidji logo logo

R.J. Kern gave a presentation on his Instagram Live Event regarding his exhibit – “The Unchosen Ones,” which was on display in Watermark’s Kaul Gallery through May 30. He discussed his unique framing system used to present his large photo canvas prints and talked about the “Artist Support Pledge” program he recently participated in.

Just like our in-person artist talks, R.J. answered audience questions during his event.  Participants direct-messaged us through our Instagram account in advance of the event or during the presentation.   Everyone who asked a question had their name entered into a random drawing for a copy R.J.’s book – “The Sheep and the Goats” – a $45.00 value!

Thank You to everyone who submitted a question. Your participation mad the event a success!

“The Sheep and the Goats” represents two bodies of work, The Bovidae: Divine Animals and Out to Pasture, in visual conversation. The work calls attention to the cultural landscapes surrounding domesticated animals. The Bovidae: Divine Animals looks at animals and environments in Kern’s ancestral heritage: Ireland, Germany, Norway, and Iceland. Out to Pasture responds as a meditation on rural America from his home state of Minnesota, USA. Together, these projects offer perspective on the meaning of pastoral in contemporary time. Among Kern’s influences are the landscape painters of the nineteenth century, especially regarding the use of light and composition.

Thanks to Springboard for the Art’s Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund for funding this event.