South Dakota—my interior geography

Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding.  In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet.  I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.

This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.

South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world. 

Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island.  I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home.  It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions.  (photo below)

IMG_2852Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.

I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories.  However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them. 

I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger.  I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.

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Prairie Stories

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These images were shot mostly south of Burke, South Dakota near or in Jamison, Nebraska (the road shot with the cars and four wheelers) while I was visiting my family last week.  Only the clothesline was shot in town.  There is nothing like clean sheets on the line drying in the sun.  I wandered around this farmstead and wondered what it was like when it was in operation.  It’s a gorgeous setting.  If anyone has any information about this farm please let me know.

I hope you discover some unexpected beauty in your weekend.

 

 

ancient memories

I shot these images at an ecodyeing workshop at Elizabeth Bunsen’s studio in Burlington, Vermont yesterday.  I have many more photos to share from the workshop however, I thought I would just post these 4 images today.  There is some magic alchemy in this process that has a unique ancient pull.

This process make me feel like a lot of other possibilities and options exist in many realms of my life not just in my creative work.

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A Murder of Crows

This morning I woke up hearing crows out my window. I know they’re loud, but they are so much more than just their volume. I’ve been interested in crows ever since I saw this remarkable PBS documentary.

CLICK HERE: A Murder of Crows PBS video

Crows are highly intelligent, social and community oriented.

Really, they are way cooler than you think.

You just might see crows differently if you learn more about them.

I certainly did.

I remembered an old painting of mine tucked behind paint cans in my basement. Here’s the original painting that was the basis for the other images.

“A Murder of Crows” 3′ x 3′, acrylic, 2010

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Here’s what I created from the original painting:

black cloth murder of crows lisa lillibridge

a murder of crows lillibridge

Live Science CROW FACTS LINK

“Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They are known for their problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills. For example, when a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify the human. In fact, research shows that crows don’t forget a face.

Many types of crows are solitary, but they will often forage in groups. Others stay in large groups. A group of crows is called a murder. Murders of crows will ban together and chase predators in a behavior called mobbing. With some crow species, the yearlings and non-mating adults live in a group called a roosting community.”

crows land sections lillibridge

“It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”   —Jean-Luc Godard   

Below are the other images I worked with. I took the photograph of Elizabeth Bunsen’s ecodyeing work. The painting was inspired by seeing sections of land when I fly home to South Dakota.

I love to layer and play with my photographs to create different worlds. I’m finding myself thinking/seeing in a very different way while I’m creating this digital collage work.

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give us land, lots of land/part 2

grandpa hs graduation lillibridge bunsen

cafe photo lillibridge bunsenold farmhouse gloaming lillibridge bunsensewing prairie stories lillibridge bunsen  cowboy shot lillibridge bunsen prairie stories

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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The prairie is pulling me now.

I’m working on a collaborative project with Nebraska native native artist Elizabeth Bunsen who also lives in Vermont.  I’m reading South Dakota history, looking at old photographs and accessing the recesses of my memory for the stories, objects and images that trigger my creativity.

I have to tell you that this South Dakota girl who is turning 50 years old in October is longing for the prairie.  It isn’t a big mystery to me why this is happening.  I’m just exploring what’s organically coming up and seeing where the pull leads me. I’m pretty sure Elizabeth’s inner Nebraska is tugging at her too.

Elizabeth Bunsen FACEBOOK

Here’s a couple of quick sketches that I played with in Illustrator this morning.  I painted with coffee which is greatly influenced by Elizabeth’s work and layered with my photographs.

P.S. Hey, when the ground thaws if anyone would consider sending me some South Dakota dirt I would greatly appreciate it.  Not much, just a small container or quart sized bag would do just fine.  Thanks.  I’ll send you a print or something in kind.

Lisa

south dakota road sketch lisa lillibridge

layered coffee road sketch lillibridge

 

Rust, memories and the wisdom of Willa Cather.

Willa Cather quote Lillibridge rust print lillibridge rust print

I did a three day workshop with Elizabeth Bunsen last week.  This is one of the prints I made with indigo and rust.  I wanted to take my print and add the prairie influences that are speaking to me right now.  I used my photographs and one of my leather pendants in one of the circular spaces on the print.  I’m not sure which image I like best.  They seem like very different art forms now.

part 1. PAPER—The work of Elizabeth Bunsen.

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“I love paper. I especially love making marks on paper while collaborating with natural processes… I use tea, rust, botanical pigments, indigo and other domestic solutions. Doodling on these papers – around a ring of rust for instance functions as a meditative technique. Over the years my stash of marked papers has grown and I often mix them up in little sample books. I also hang lengths of marked paper on hand-twined silk strings along with eucalyptus dyed fabric. My “to do” lists often end up dipped into the indigo vat or dyed and become little books of collected dailiness. These processes often succeed in helping me create the illusion of slowing the passage of time.”      —Elizabeth Bunsen

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   “Moon Over Nebraska” This license plate is from her Grandfather’s truck.

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I sent Elizabeth my photos and asked her to respond to the images…because I had to have a better description for you, the readers.

For me to write about Elizabeth’s work is equivalent to trying to describe the way I feel when I jump into the ocean or feel rain on my face.  It’s a sensation.  It’s ancient and internal and highly personal and not easy to put into words.  However, I’ll try.

My first pull to her work was threefold:

ONE: The palette (rust and blues make me swoon)

TWO: The license plate from a Nebraska truck.  I’m from South Dakota.

THREE: A very unique quality that is feminine, industrial, dreamlike and yet tangible and familiar at the same time…again, ancient really best describes her work for me.  Do you ever have those people, places or things in your life that keep surfacing even though you don’t have a known connection?  For me it’s 1930s Berlin Cabaret—another post— another time.

Elizabeth’s work feels like I’ve been waiting to see it and that our paths were suppose to cross at this point in my life.

I hope you enjoy her work and please share and check out her blogs and FACEBOOK page.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.bunsen.3

BLOG: http://elizabethbunsen.typepad.com/

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/moonoverwater/