|Prairie Grass - Oklahoma|
collage on paper
16 x 20"
My husband and I met in college, in Stillwater, OK. He was raised in southwestern Oklahoma and after college we lived and worked in the state until moving to Oregon. Being from Arkansas I knew little about Oklahoma history and the required coursework about my adopted state was fascinating.
I read tales of the five civilized tribes, early white settlers, the Sooners who jumped into the land rush too soon, and of womens struggles to make a home on the prairie where conditions were harsh. Many, including my husbands relatives, scraped back the prairie grasses and dug homes into the red soil, using what precious wood they could find to build the upper walls, roof and door on their dugout home.
The Oklahoma prairie was beautiful before the farmers settled the land and changed the landscape forever. The grasses were tall, the skies vast, the bison plentiful. Some settlers recognized the value of the prairie grass as cattle feed but much of it was plowed and planted with crops, contributing to the horrors of the Dust Bowl era. Now several land conservancy groups are returning portions of the land to its natural state.
There are incredible photographs of prairie grass online here.
As I thought about images of Oklahoma the most striking to me are those of grass and giant blue skies. The thin slices of paper which indicate prairie grass are proportionally too wide for the scale of the composition, indicating the immensitiy of the prairie. My art is about my emotionalal response to the location, not a photo-realistic representation. There's a dichotomy here of nature vs. present day infrastructure, a land which only 100 years ago was prairie and bison and is now criss-crossed with highways and dotted with cities. The prairies are growing back and the bison are thriving on preserves. It's about time.