Collector: Kyle Agnew, University of Iowa MFA Graduate Student & Jeffy Pearl Cromer 
Collection Name: Salt and Pepper: Looking at Love and Familial History 

Collector Statement:

"Growing up I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents in Speedway, Indiana. As a child, spending time in their kitschy, colorful turquoise home, my imagination wandered over all my grandmothers' various archives and collections. From her Merry Mushroom kitchen, classic car cologne bottles, and jars upon jars of buttons, I was mesmerized by the worlds she created in her own home.

Growing up in the great depression, my grandmother was taught through experience to hold onto everything. Everything, no matter how small, had value. This led to my grandmother beginning to collect salt and pepper shakers. They would decorate her kitchen and often functioned as mementos and souvenirs from her travels and the travels of her friends, bringing her back a set as a gift.

After her passing, when I was just a small child, my parents inherited her archive and began going through it. Slowly selling off pieces as it was just too much for us to store, yet my mother always kept her salt and pepper shaker collection.

As I began to grow and develop my own identity, these objects spoke to me with their cutesy look and americana feel. I began to add to and develop her collection further, diving deeper into the collecting community during the pandemic and making friends with several sellers and collectors of vintage memorabilia online. One large interest to me was the dissonance between this community and the objects we treasured so much. Often these collectors were kind, open minded, queer individuals with a similar familial history as mine. Yet, what puzzled me was the fact that these shakers uphold a very heteronormative traditional view point they project to the viewer, contrasting to the very nuanced nature of the queer people who collected these objects.

As I expand my grandmother's collection, I look for shakers that have little gender-signaling in their expression of love, becoming a blank canvas for queer people to project themselves onto instead of the often-portrayed stereotypical hetero couples shakers often portrayed. This queering of my grandmother's archive begins to search and meditate on innovative ideas of love, acceptance, and embrace."

Featured collections items:

  • Tennis boys 
  • Fruit boys (pineapple strawberry)  
  • Lemon boys 
  • Bird friends (pink) 
  • Carrot boys 
  • Kale girls 
  • Yellow old phone 
  • Fork and spoon 
  • Banana boys 
  • Mom dog and puppies 
  • Male dogs interlocked 
  • Two geese 
  • Stuffed dogs 
  • Two frogs 
  • Music notes 
  • Two pears 
  • Brown dogs 
  • Chicago 
  • Dog heads 
  • Penguins 
  • Old couple 
  • Dust pans 
  • Round poodles  
  • Dolphins  
  • Rainbow seagulls 
  • Disney couples 
  • Disney castle 
  • Pink classic shakers 
  • Rococo couple 
  • Pink old phone  
  • Cowboys  
  • Tuba and shoe 
  • two cuckoo birds in object 
  • Onion and cake 

Want a better look? Guests can view Kyle's collection on the First Floor of Macbride Hall, just south of Iowa Hall, October 2022 - January 2023.