fruit and dreaming

Fruit and Dreaming
Installation views and detail
Site-specific weavings (silk, bamboo/merino), silk thread, porcelain, kozo (paper mulberry), milkweed, thimbleweed, glass prisms, sequins, 35 mm slides, slide projection, video projection, audio recordings, sunlight

In 1944 a botanist named Ada Hayden received 100 dollars from the Iowa Academy of Sciences to survey land that might preserve the natural history of the state. She traveled all around Iowa, documenting and collecting plant life in prairie remnants – tall grass, wetland, dry, forested, sandy – and recommended 22 areas be preserved, writing a paper entitled “"The Selection of Prairie Areas in Iowa Which Should be Preserved." On a radio show on July 3, 1946 she implored farmers to assess tracts of land often used for hay pasturage:

Prairie land shouldn’t be improved in any way, other than fenced. It should be left in its natural state…. it seems to me during this centennial birthday of Iowa, it would be especially appropriate to give the state a present of virgin prairie land if you have some…. Then there’ll be a preserve for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy – not as a picnic area – but as a cathedral, a monument to the past. (Hayden, Radio transcript)

This past summer, near Spirit Lake, Iowa one particular prairie, and one particular part of this prairie captured my attention and imagination. It is indeed one of the areas uncovered by Hayden, who recognized tallgrass plants growing in a hayfield. She recommended that it be preserved. In 1958, the Cayler family, who had owned the land since frontier settlement, sold the land parcel to the Iowa Conservation Commission. The tallgrass parcel was named as a National Natural Landmark in 1966 and dedicated as a state nature preserve in 1971.

For me, it started with the wild plum, a woody invasive shrub, and became everything else: the light pink and purple vetch, the bobolink, young milkweed, thousands upon thousands of fireflies and luminescent barley grass. Over two weeks in June 2019, I visited Cayler Prairie, at different times of day and night, in varying weather conditions. I recorded sound, video and light data, made drawings and took field notes.

This exhibition is comprised of fragments of my experience at Cayler Prairie in translated forms. I wonder how this particular place holds time, represents and offers opportunities to experience attention in new ways. What could it mean to make space for a place to speak?

Using materials - fiber, paper, ceramics, light and sound - I hope to compose moments with a lens towards reciprocity. The “screens” are weavings and floating paper tapestries, reflecting the amorphous shapes and forms of their reflected image. Some projectors are de-constructed, some shaped in clay, their shadows appearing as natural forms of the hand. Light data points as silk thread compose a landscape in motion.

Select images and slides courtesy of:
Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives
Ada Hayden Herbarium – EEOB (Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology) Department, Iowa State University