homesteading women…


cellular residue

Do you possess some form of heartache, pride or even a sense of neutrality, depending on how things turned out for your ancestors?

While researching the stories of female homesteaders on the upper plains one dominant trait surfaced again and again.

Women are remarkably capable of creating something out of nothing.

Leaving all things familiar to take a chance on a new life for themselves and their families was an enormous sacrifice, requiring great courage. So often they were very young women, ages we still consider to be children by today’s standards.

It seems that perhaps we all possess some cellular residue from the migratory ventures of our ancestors. This courage is exhibited (and often maligned) every day, all over the world, as people are forced to leave their homes.

They’re not fleeing for the heady chance to “prove up” 160 free acres as the homesteaders did. They’re most often trying to stay alive and feed their children, a brave migratory gamble in hopes of a better life.

getting nostalgic in black & white.

twins lisa lillibridgeMy twin daughters are graduating from high school on Thursday, June 14th at 10am and nostalgia along with a handful of other complex and occasionally irrational emotions are settling into my midlife psyche.  For so long photographing my girls was my muse, something creative I could do all the time.  However, as they got older (and had cameras in their pockets) I photographed them less frequently together.  I have plenty of travel and birthday photos, but I can see now as the years progressed, they increasingly grew into their individuality, less of a unit and I followed their lead.  Now, every photo has to be “approved” which I can understand for a 17-year-old coming-of-age in this era and about to graduate from high school.

Here’s to honoring nostalgia however it surfaces in your life.  I know for me, it’s helping the transition to an empty nest to take a look back.  I’m less anxious that I could’ve been a better mother and prepared them more by seeing these photographs through a slightly different lens.  A pleasant byproduct of middle age wisdom, I suppose.

When my three kids were young, to offer a little grace at the end of those seriously ass-kicking days, I would ask myself:

“Did you love them more than you were pissed off at them today?” 

The answer was always the same.  I can live with that.

girls flipping the bird lisa lillibridge

Scrappy Bird-Lillibridge (22) copy – Version 3

lucy and willa deck bath lisa lillibridge

There are so many photographs to sort through, here are a few of my favorite black & white shots of Lucy and Willa. 

I’ll post my favorite color images next.

fade & shift

Memory…is the diary we all carry with us.

—Oscar Wilde

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dreaming of spaciousness…

prairie-moon-lisa-lillibridge-dakota-1966

Above is my original painting.  It was in a show at a restaurant that used to be downtown Burlington, Smokejacks.  The light was low so I designed this series to show up in the soft light.  This piece also was also in a show at the Herrick Elevator in South Dakota.

I thought I could stretch the life of this painting by playing with it and layering the moon.  The farmhouse and flora in these images are photographs I shot around Burke, South Dakota.  I guess as the snow falls in Vermont I’m dreaming of a quiet and spacious rural landscape.

lillibridge-dakota-1966-moon-over-prairie-farmhouse

prairie-moon-and-flora-lillibridge-dakota-1966

Here’s to all the things I didn’t get done for Christmas…

christmas-tree-south-dakota-lillibridge

Every year I have such grand intentions of how I’m going to show my love to my family and friends and every year I fall a short of my intentions and beat myself up a bit.  I’m no longer going to miss out on the little moments of the season because of things I DIDN’T GET DONE.  That’s bullshit.

This year, I’m forgiving, no celebrating myself for all of the great ideas I’ve had and didn’t accomplish.  It’s those little moments with our loved ones, people in line at the coffee shop, grocery store or our bartenders for that matter that make the holiday special anyway.  I’m going to be jolly and generous like Santa out in the world, that just sounds fun, right?

things-done

So now it’s December 19th and I’m putting one package in the mail for a very special little girl who will more thrilled than anyone on my list to receive a package.   I will tell the people in my life I love them and not think twice about what I didn’t get done.  Tonight, a Christmas lights drive with my family and spaghetti at our favorite family joint.

Have a very Merry Christmas and be ridiculously kind to yourself this year.

how do I stop the blur?

I know it’s only July 27th and there’s a lot of summer to still be lived & enjoyed.  However, this morning I felt like some of my summer 2016 memories are beginning to blur.

blur/verb—to make or become unclear or less distinct (Merriam-Webster)

I want to slow it all down.  I really want to be a good steward of my memories. 

How exactly do I go about doing that?

  1. I journal.  Every night I write down 3-4 things that were great about my day. This will help my great grandchildren try to figure out what the summer of 2016 was like for me…but it doesn’t stop the blur.
  2. I try to breathe, savor, soak it in…all of the stuff “Oprah” tells me to do…it still blurs a lot of the time.  Perhaps I’m trying to hard.

After I layered these photos and saw my daughter jumping into the clouds and a beach sign on a South Dakota gravel road I realized that I have to accept that this is the nature of our memories.  Even if we can’t recall everything with great detail and clarity our memories are always a part of us.  They may surface again one day and they may not.  I guess, just like everything else in life the path of least resistance is: ACCEPTANCE.

Here’s to a bunch of sweet summer memories…all blurred together.

lucy jumping boardwalk lillibridge

jeff guitar cape cod lillibridge

south dakota beach sign lillibridge

jeff and lisa on beach airplane shot of sd

“Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories.”

—Steven Wright/comedian

bridging my adult life & my roots

I’m heading back out to South Dakota next week.  My longing for the prairie now is unprecedented in my adult life.  Artist Elizabeth Bunsen and I have been talking a lot about the nature of how much the landscape of our childhoods affects our adult lives.  This pull is now greatly affecting my need for spaciousness, quiet, connection, being available to aging parents and looking at a few years down the road with children in college and an empty nest.

I’ve layered my photos of South Dakota with some of my paintings. These images serve as a bridge between my 26 year creative life in Vermont and my South Dakota roots.  You can take the girl out of West River, but you can’t take the West River out of the girl.

I would love to hear how the landscape of your childhood has had an affect on your life.  I’m really curious about this concept and hope to be doing some interviews and writing on the topic.

P.S. For you Burke area residents.  I would love to shoot some abandoned farmhouses while I’m home the 20th-22nd.  If you have some locations please email me or let my family know locations.  Thank you.  Maybe I’ll see you around town or in Stella’s.

 

prairie stories.

My family and I are heading to Burke, South Dakota to see my clan this week for our April break.  My days will be filled with my family, the Ponca Creek Bull Sale, hopefully a new baby, old friends and some meandering drives on the prairie roads I adore.

My camera is being cleaned so this trip will be all heart and memory.  It feels a little weird to me but there’s nothing I can do.  I will have my phone however.  I may need to borrow a camera at the bull sale and if my niece’s baby does arrive while we are home. I’m really trying to be “in the moment” and not as concerned with getting the shot.  It’s a tough habit to break though.

Here are a couple of old photos I layered this morning while my daughter Lucy was packing.

The first image is main street in Burke layered with a prairie sunrise image from my parent’s back porch.  Having coffee on the porch with my Mom is always one of my favorite parts of my time at home.

The second image is a country road layered with a sign I saw in the Las Vegas airport years ago.  I’m not sure what “burke in the box” is, but I thought it was interesting.

I hope you find yourself “at home” within yourself whatever your life demands of you this week.

burke south dakota sunrise main street lillibridge

burke south dakota in the rear view mirror lillibridge

image v. memory

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I remember this day well.  My twin daughters were three.  We’d been at the beach for the afternoon, they were hot, sandy, cranky and tired.  I was pretty sure putting them in a tub of water and giving them popsicles would buy me a few minutes to sit on the porch and collect my thoughts…or do I have it all wrong?  I must have it all wrong because of the look in their eyes.

What am I not remembering? 

I love the picture, but I only remember this moment through the image. It isn’t as hardwired as it would’ve been by simply being there with my girls.

I’m proud of my photos.  They certainly fill a creative craving for me…but I think I might need to be more judicious about when I pull out my camera or iphone.

Sometimes I want the buffer the camera allows me and sometimes I don’t want the burden of being the photographer.

The more I learn about neural pathways, they more I want to let experiences get hardwired into my brain and not always captured in pixels.  I might be more willing to explore this because my camera is now being repaired.  At first I felt like I was missing a limb when I dropped it off last week.  However, after being away for the weekend with my family it allowed me more time to be “in the moment”.

This morning my husband and I walked the beach and in the distance I noticed that there were seals on the rocks.  My phone had died and I didn’t have my camera.  We walked closer and got a better look.  We watched them slide on and off the rocks and Jeff made “seal sounds”.  We joked about how cool it would be if his calls were actually summoning them.  I’ve always wanted to touch a seal.  (I was told they feel very “oily”.)  This is now a memory to call upon.  I created the neural pathway of this moment on March 27th, 2016 of walking the beach with my husband in the sun and seeing a bunch of seals.

I found the story below on the RADIOLAB site about photographs and memories.

RADIOLAB (link & excerpt from article)

“A recent study out of Fairfield University suggests that taking digital photographs actually diminishes our memory. That’s right, makes it worse. What we have here is forgetfulness being enforced on two accounts.

First, and probably no surprise, the action of taking a photo distracts us from physically instilling the moment into the hardwiring of our brain. In the time normally spent capturing the moment in our neurons, we’re thinking, “I want to take a picture of this.” Whipping out our camera, setting up the shot, we become more focused on the act of capturing a copy of the moment with our camera rather than the event itself in our brain. The moment is recorded in pixels, but it’s not imprinted in our brain’s neuronal wiring.

Secondly, our future recollection of the moment (now haphazardly hard-wired in our brain) is lessened because of the medium we’re using — digital pixels as opposed to physical prints.”

________________________

This makes a lot of sense, but it will be a tough habit for me to break.

I’m actually glad now that I don’t just have a grainy picture of the seals in my camera.

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