Emilie has been soaking up the prairie for over two weeks now. The American Prairie Reserve has given her quite an introduction. She has set-up her easel in a prairie dog village, listening to them yip as coyotes sing backup as the sun went down; she’s traded pounding NYC pavement for hiking with the wind and cracked dusty plains; and with the help of the local scientists, she’s now recognizing the details in the life around her that could so easily go unnoticed. Here’s her latest from the Prairie:
It’s the sixteenth day of my month-long painting retreat on the American Prairie Reserve. As cool weather gives way to spring in this remote northern climate, I’ve noticed myself opening up to the wealth of inspiration that this place has to offer.
Vast. Harsh. Remote. These words characterize the land I’ve been living in, yet the feeling of being so small in the face of this wildness is exactly what excites my imagination. Bright sun bleaches the color out of the landscape, wind tears through the grass, and storms hit with a swift ferocity that render the roads impassable with mud. Looking to the distant horizon, this land appears to be a monotonous eternity, but in the long hours I’ve spent painting, listening, and observing, I’ve tuned in to the richness of life buzzing at my feet.
Bison, elk, deer, antelope, porcupines, prairie dogs, rabbits, meadowlarks, owls, coyote, sage grouse, sharp tail grouse, kestrel, hawks, eagles, magpies, killdeer, snakes, bugs, frogs, butterflies, and, yes, mosquitos, keep me company during the day and I find great joy in learning to notice the different sounds and sights of these visitors.
In my paintings, I’ve found it challenging to depict the richly layered textures of grass, sage brush, greasewood, juniper, wildflowers, and cactus. To me, these tough twisted characters are a metaphor for the wildness of this place and will play an important role in my paintings. With the awareness that I’ll soon be back in my studio in New York working on six foot wide canvases inspired by this trip, I’m consciously collecting the elements that I plan to include in my final compositions. I’m also thinking about how to communicate the emotional impact of this land and the unique nature of the conservation effort taking place here–it is indeed a profound conceptual step forward in American Conservation; one that I believe will be seen as a classic effort given the passage of enough time. Although I’ve been spending so much time alone, I do cross paths with other visitors to the reserve–biologists, conservationists, and journalists who also find this place inspiring. There is a sense of positive momentum here, an excitement for the success of this vision. I’m feeling incredibly fortunate to be here when the Prairie Reserve is still relatively new, and to see first hand the evolution of a conservation area.
has beaten this land into submission.
Life clings low to the ground,
twisting tough roots
The sun sinks
The wind gives up
And the prairie rests
While frogs fill the void
And miles away, a herd of bison settle in
For the night.
– inspired by my camping trip
Learn what inspired Emilie to get involved with the American Prairie Reserve here.
New Yorkers: For those of you curious to learn more about the American Prairie Reserve, enjoy an evening on the Prairie with Tom Brokaw on Tuesday, May 19th at the American Museum of Natural History. Absolute Travel will be there! More details here: Evening on the Prairie.