give us land, lots of land

When Elizabeth Bunsen and I were hanging her latest work we wondered what it would be like to project different images onto her eco-dyed scarves.  I couldn’t wait to work on this idea and began making collages with her textiles and my photographs in Adobe Illustrator.

Our “prairie stories” collaboration is starting to take shape as Elizabeth and I continue to discuss memories, identity and the geography that has most shaped who we are as adults.  It’s no wonder we have a short hand about our childhoods.  Elizabeth grew up in Lodgepole, Nebraska (population 319 as of 2013) and I grew up in Burke, South Dakota (population 601 as of 2013). Also both of our grandfathers were bankers.  We both have twenty year old sons. And our art and process can provide deep sorry and remarkable joy at the same time.

We’re artists and our storytelling is in the visual realm.  Our conversations have been wonderfully insightful, however, if we were only sharing our ideas in a written form, I believe it would feel like we’re only telling you half of the story…or perhaps even less than half.

To me these layered memories feel like I’m looking through the curtains of one of the many farmhouses of relatives and friends I visited as a kid.  These memories are readily accessible but also a little hazy like the yellow tint of an old faded Polaroid photo.

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge abandoned farmhouse

lillibridge bunsen prairie stories layered images curtains

The words will come as our ideas evolve, right now the images are coming first.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how the interior geography of your youth has shaped who you are today, your choices and what direction you would like move into.

Elizabeth and I are gaining some understanding of how big of a role it’s played in our own identities…give us land lots of land.

sunflowers elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge    lisa lillibridge and elizabeth bunsen cornfield behind the curtain  elizabeth bunsen lisa lillibridge behind the curtain field

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge rodeo in south dakota

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge memories of childhood

 

unwrapping some ancient memories

On a recent chilly Vermont afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting Elizabeth Bunsen’s studio to unwrap some “bundles”.  I was honored that she saved them for me.  I truly understand how much creative restraint it requires to not open them up right away.

They are so mysterious…every single time.  I can’t really explain what they feel like—an ancient scroll, a map, a message from ancestors, a signal from nature, a calling, a memory, a longing…they’re so peaceful and yet a little haunting as well.  I told you that you that it’s nearly impossible to describe what it feels like to unwrap these bundles.

I’m much better at showing you than telling you.

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coffee & late night road trips

Late night road trips and learning to drink coffee in my Grandmother’s kitchen are a few of my favorite memories.  I’m 49-years-old and I’m pretty sure there are a few trips during high school and college I’ve selectively forgotten to tell my folks about.  It’s a damn good thing I learned to love coffee though—it’s kept me alert and safe on the road for a very long time. Grandma would be proud of that.  She always was such a worrier.

coffee spill south dakota two lane lillibridge

I need to lighten up.

This morning when I woke up I asked myself,

“What do I really need to pay the most attention today?”

This is a really good question, but I did not take my own counsel. My natural inclination is to get pretty intense.  Example: Over coffee this morning my husband and my daughters & I spent time reading about the 1973 Wounded Knee FBI standoff on The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It was interesting and my memory was jogged.  My girls wanted to know what I remembered about the story from when I was 8 years old.  We all wanted to know more about Leonard Peltier.

However, after they left for school, I thought, “WOW, we need way more kitten videos and way less dense discussion”.

There’s something about this day and age that I can’t quite put my finger on—a heaviness that’s way too pervasive in our culture.  Yes, lots of issues demand our attention…but, many, many don’t and I know that I’m wasting a lot of energy even thinking about them.  I want to keep a couple of images in my head for when I start getting too intense.

We are just a cog in the machine.  I’m only a microscopic portion of what makes the world hum. Too often I supersize my role—thinking it’s much greater than it actually is…you’re just a cog, Lisa, simply just a cog.

I’m simply a blade of grass in a field.  I’m not the field.  I’m a blade. Too me this is actually quite liberating. Now, if I can remind myself of these images when I start supersizing my place in the world, I’ll really have stumbled onto something.

 

cog grass lisa lillibridge wordpress

cog defined lillibridge

Here’s a few kitten videos if you find yourself getting way too intense today. Enjoy!

kittentoob.com

 

I’m seeing the prairie everywhere.

hyperfocus

noun

  1. An intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses the consciousness on a narrow subject.

south dakota two lane and graffiti lillibridge sandwich mass boardwalk meeting hwy eighteen south dakota lillibridge brick wall south dakota two lane lillibridge

I love getting hyperfocused creatively.  This lets me rule out all of the other possibilities I get so distracted by all day every day.  So right now—February of the year 2016 my focus is on the prairie.  My ideas have a place to land and someone to explore them with.  This collaborative project is in the conceptual stage, but there’s a guiding principle and that makes all the difference.

I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, to make some choices about where you want to spend your energy.  I did an inventory and I realized that a few things on my list just had to go.  There isn’t time for everything that interests me.  I had to prioritize.  It wasn’t easy, but taking a hard look at my list was pretty eye-opening.

tears & droplets

I was told this week that “tears are memories on the move”.  I thought that was a lovely way to describe our tears.  People I love are hurting now.  I thought this concept could offer some solace…moving memories.  The idea of sorrow moving through us by our tears—a biological, physiological and emotional response gives our tears the weight they deserve.
I shot these images and realized that I was zeroing in on the beauty of the temporal quality of a droplet.  A droplet, like a tear is living but won’t be forever. They are entirely necessary in the here and now when they flow…memories on the move.  Memories on the move.

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eco-dyeing with Elizabeth Bunsen

Yesterday I had the privilege of eco-dyeing with Elizabeth Bunsen at her new space in Burlington, Vermont’s South End.  Like many creative processes the thrill is in the “not knowing” how things will turn out.  Elizabeth has tremendous knowledge and yet every time she dyes something there are some mysteries and surprises.  What a good life metaphor, huh?  The best laid plans…

Here’s what happened yesterday in the process of dyeing a silk tie.  We were so delighted with the results.  The depth of the color and the outlines of the leaves were remarkable.

Thank you, Elizabeth.  An inspiring afternoon indeed.

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