I write a lot about Iowa because 1) there are a lot of interesting stories in Iowa, and 2) there are a lot of interesting people there. I know, I married one.
But one of the most interesting characters I’ve met is a girl named Kelly. She’s a belly dancer and likes to eat ice cream cakes. Another sweetheart I met loves bowling and sunflowers. Her name is Irene. I brought Irene home with me.
They are both girlfriends of Valerie Miller, a creative young mother who has found her passion in painting cows – real cows found in the farm country of northeast Iowa. Yes, Kelly and Irene are both cows. Got a problem with that?
Love Those Cows
An artist at an early age, Valerie grew up in Iowa, although not on a dairy farm. (Not everyone in Iowa lives on a farm, you know). However, her uncles, Tom and Paul Weighner, have a dairy farm and are principles in Homestead Dairy in Waukon, Iowa. They make some great cheese, milk and ice cream. And they are among Valerie’s biggest fans.
Valerie’s passion for cows solidified during a trip to Glarus Switzerland where “they treat cows like the goddesses they are,” says Val.
She spends a lot of time in cow pastures photographing cows and finding inspiration for her work. Cows are naturally curious creatures and often approach her, therefore showcasing the personalities that Val works into her art.
As she names each portrait, she creates adorable personality traits for the girls sometimes based on real people she knows. The only cow portrayed with her broad backside on display is Arlene, named for Valerie’s grandma Arlene. Not everyone takes it as a compliment to have a cow named for them.
The Cow Collection
There are now more than 50 “girls” in Valerie’s collection, which is beginning to include chickens and pigs. More than a dozen murals brighten buildings around Waukon and Decorah Iowa.
But you don’t have to have a building-sized mural to enjoy Valerie’s girls. They are available in prints as small as 6″ X 6″ as well as coffee cups, calendars, pillows and Christmas ornaments via her website, steelcow.com or at many of the shops in and around northeast Iowa.
But the best way to enjoy the whimsy of these fanciful girls is to take a road trip to Iowa and see them for yourself. It’s something a mojotraveler would do.