Anything and everything is a viable creative material to an artist. The natural landscape in particular provides constant inspiration and possibility for artistic acts.
I reside in the geography of the prairie, and the plains have always been to me a landscape of wonder. Their vast horizon and wide open skies provide room for big ideas and quiet contemplation.
The Prairie Plains Resource Institute in Marquette, NE, invited me to be a visiting artist and work with youth on the prairie. This project would be a part of their Youth Naturalist Program. The program provides a wide range of experiences for youth to explore in, learn about, and care for the ecosystem in which they live.
I love working with youth and was excited to do creative work together in the natural landscape. We were tasked with creating a prairie sculpture using what materials we could find on site.
Cedar is invasive to the prairie habitat, and much of prairie restoration work includes removing cedar trees from the land. Young or live cedar has a semi-pliable quality, which makes it a good material for sculptural work. Cedar branches became our primary medium.
Together, we created a sculptural fence along a trail through the prairie. Using the wattle fence technique, we used only cedar to weave branches into a structural form. This type of fence is unique in that it requires no nails to hold together, just branches and sticks.
This was a collaborative effort with youth, who were free to build upon the sculpture concept in their own creative ways. Two youth came up with the idea to include a small passageway through the fence. Those who passed through would be pointed in the direction of a beautiful bluff in the distance.
Other youth designed the overall visual flow to the structure, and later reflected on the echoing patterns of their sculptural design and the landscape beyond it.
The area where our prairie sculpture was created will serve as a campsite and gathering spot for visitors as they explore the prairie. Perhaps visitors will add to the sculpture with branches they find on their visit.
Many thanks to the Prairie Plains Resource Institute for inviting me to be a visiting artist.