Welcome. I live on the American Prairie and my art is inspired by earth and sky, ancient stone, cold moons, winds and storms. Forces that speak to eternity and transformation.
L I F E O N T H E F R O N T I E R
Welcome to my studio at Fossil Lake on the American Prairie.
Can I tell you how vast the prairie is, how wide her grasslands and unfettered the sky? How if you stand on the land you feel the great coarseness of the earth rushing through your veins? And although not seen, you sense below, a community of roots and plant material deeply anchored in the land. A spine of rhizomes and tubers communicating to the tall grass that rain is coming. Telling the Cottonwoods that the North Wind is near. To be anchored to the land is a special thing, for it reminds us that we are all neighbors.
The stark, beautiful frontier inspires me to create work that is minimal, textural and grounded in impermanence, the notion that nature is always changing. From growth to decay, life is eternal. Cold moons, mercurial winds, storms and stones are my constant muses.
W I N D
Kansas is named after the Kaw People, meaning People of the South Wind. Winds very much define my work and I how I see nature. During the time of the north wind, I am drawn to the muted colors of winter and dormant plants that teach us to rest and renew. In the time of the south wind, the atmosphere is electric with towering thunderheads that inspire more visceral work. Throughout, I paint moons because they cycle through the sky and remind us that we are never stuck in one place. We can transform.
E A R T H
The land where I paint is primordial, thanks to fossil-laden limestone, a remnant of the ancient ocean that existed here. It forms a bedrock that stretches as far as the eye can see. I collect stone and other natural materials and fold them into the paintings, so the spirit of the land rests there. Each painting begins with hand-made stone foundations embedded with organic material such as gathered grain, grass and found bark to form deep, undulating texture. I cleanse the work with sage and cedar smoke, setting the stage for paint and rich layers of earth material.
Iron oxidized to rust represents fleeting time.
Prairie soil suggests fallowness and rest.
Found cottonwood bark holds the secrets of the whisper tree.
Limestone and sandstone contain a record of the land’s history.
Natural pigments and native grass are also used.
Sometimes the elements continue to evolve long after I leave the canvas. If you are lucky, you may find that your painting gently changes over time, just as stone does in the storm, eroding and shifting with age.
W A T E R
The prairie is semi-arid, so water is precious here. Often you wait long periods for it to fall from the sky, but when it does, the super-charged atmosphere inspires respect for nature. Cold air from the Rocky Mountains collides with warm moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, igniting super cells. I use the rainwater and winter snow in the paintings because storms are the perfect embodiment of all the elements – wind, land, water and fire – and a reminder that we possess within us the power to transform.
F I R E
More than two-thirds of a prairie plant is roots, which help to build the soil. The practice of prescribed burns in the spring strengthen the root system by removing old growth. This is interesting to see, great swaths of land burning quickly under thick smoke. The renewal of the earth happens quickly though, because within days, the charred land is peppered with bright, green shoots. The symbolism of letting go of that which no longer serves us, inspires me to purify paintings with the ash and smoke of sacred prairie plants, including Eastern Red Cedar and wild, white sage. I cleanse them with the hope that they inspire joy and growth.
Those who live on the land are its stewards, mindful that it is ours for but for a little while. It is my hope that my art gives rise to a new interpretation of earth and our place in it.