Yesterday's cooler temperatures lured me out of the house to explore the area. I was curious about the parks, conservation areas and wildlife refuges along the Illinois River.Read More
Yesterday we left Omaha, drove across Iowa and arrived in Frederick, a tiny burg on the Illinois River in the western part of central Illinois. Rachel Mindrup and I are at the Farwell House for the Plank Road Artist Residency, which we were invited to do as an extension of our participation in the Midwest Artist Studios Project.
Our hosts, the Ackerman family, are a delightful, generous ensemble willing to share their home with visiting artists who spend nearly two weeks with them, exploring the area, working, meeting community members and describing their work. We're looking forward to a dinner party on Friday evening, to a night market at the HUB Arts & Cultural Center in nearby Rushville, and to opening our live/work spaces and showing what we do on Sunday afternoon.
I'm grateful to have this extended time to recharge and refocus. I expect to post images on Instagram and on my Facebook studio page, so check those out to see updates throughout my stay here. I hope to craft a few longer posts here, too.
Attending the "Flat Places: Deep Identities" symposium hosted by the Center for Great Plains Studies allowed me to learn from ecologists, geologists, writers, poets, photographers, film-makers, theologists and cartographers of all kinds. My mind is still swimming with the conversations and ideas that emerged. It's so good to get out of the studio periodically to learn about what other people are working on. I'll be able to more deeply consider some of the emerging possibilities as I drive between home and Milwaukee to pick up art from the Walker's Point Center for the Arts exhibit of Midwest Artist Studios project members.
Realizing it's been some time since I wrote here, I'm getting back to it. Here are some of the books I've been reading as I consider visits to natural and restored prairies this summer. Research has always been a foundation for all my creative endeavors, and sometimes it's easy to remain immersed in that part of the work, following a thread of interest through history and numerous writers and other interpreters.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I am reading PrairyErth for the first time. I bought the book for my stepfather shortly after it was released and intended to read it myself. I didn't. Now it's more than 25 years later, and I am reveling in this deep map and looking forward to where it might lead me when I emerge from between its covers. Next up will likely be Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains, as I want to read most of it before I hear author Susan Naramore Maher speak at the symposium "Flat Places: Deep Identities" at the end of the month.
The wheat stalks shown in the image above came from the last crop my stepdad planted in 2010. They are held in a textured ceramic vase my daughter made in middle school. The silk scarf of autumn colors and turquoise highlights is a new favorite, a recent gift from my mom, who also gave me Wander: The Kansas Flint Hills in Words and Images. It's comforting to me to have these tangible reminders of family connections, even as I wander.
As part of my role as a teaching artist in the Midwest Artist Studios project, I had to provide an illustrated step-by-step description of creating a painting. Project founder Frank Juarez collects such descriptions from each artist and writes a curriculum around them to share with high school art teachers throughout the region. In our conversations, I discussed the importance of prairies and fostering a love for terrain and native plants in this distinctive regional landscape. I also talked about finding inspiration in your surroundings. My studio is in an old warehouse district of Omaha where native plants sometimes take root in empty lots and along chain-link fences. At this time of year, the sun creates blazes of color on the brick buildings late in the afternoon, and this painting is inspired by the view right out my studio window. Below are a few of the images of the painting as it progressed.