New Work

DRIFTLESS PRAIRIE VISIONS: Five Artists, 10 Acres, 20 years, One Prairie







May 5 – June 30, 2024

The University of Wisconsin Arboretum Visitor’s Center
Steinhauer Trust Art Gallery
1207 Seminole Hwy, Madison, WI 53711
Weekdays: 9:30 am – 4:00 pm | Weekends: 12:30 – 4:00 pm

Driftless Prairie Visions began with my “citizen-scientist” lists, a 20- year document noting when plants bloomed on my 10 acre reconstructed prairie.  This phenology –the “when” of blooming times—was transferred to detailed data spreadsheets in 2021-2022 by a scientist.  The spreadsheets incorporated not only the “when,” but also abundance, bloom color, Latin name and related data.

The prairie itself began as an art project in 2000, an “earthwork” which I continuously photographed.  As it flourished and with the spreadsheets in hand, I began to turn some of the information into a series of wall-hung collages over 2021-2023.

My collages began with black and white photos of the prairie printed in my darkroom.  From there I went to the local xerox store where the photos were reprinted in many sizes.  The originals were put aside and I took up scissors,  tape and thumb tacks.  I  began to build a series of three collages on the corkboard in my studio.  Here is a rendering of these results (click to open).

The sheer volume of spreadsheet data encouraged me to turn to four other local Wisconsin artists who enthusiastically agreed to collaborate. Our group of five—Karen Ellzey, Gigi LaBudde, Peggy Timmerman, Joni Graves and me–took up the challenge to visually interpret the spreadsheet data, each in her own  distinctive medium.  Four of the artists were already involved with natural habitats, so our creations connected personal art to lived experience.  We call ourselves the Prairie Imaginarium. 

The document which follows  is a rendering of the project as of July 2023 (click to open).

The text in this first collage indicates the blooming times of prairie plants over a year.  On the right-hand side a collage built from xeroxes, scissors, and tape recreates the feel of the prairie over that year.  In the next months this mock-up will become a collage of actual silver gelatin prints plus a detailed printed text.