NEW SOUTH CAMPUS UNION UW – MADISON
.8 miles from the main campus is the UW Arboretum and Curtis Prairie, the first restored patch of prairie in the world.
The prairies as we know them today are reconstructions, fictions that require conscientious maintenance. This ongoing concern/question will be explored in PRAIRIE PASSAGES, one of six permanent integrated artworks my team and I are creating for the New South Campus Union.
PRAIRIE PASSAGES will be composed of two interlocking elements:
1. A detailed silhouette of a prairie plants etched into glass doorways and windows
2. A digital video of a prairie recorded during the changing cycles of one year
The full expression of the art will be the projection of the video upon an etched glass landscape.
On October 9th, Arboretum staffer Molly Murray helped filmmaker Jake Fuller, photography intern Justin Bacon and me scout locations to set the camera. We are proposing to videotape at regular intervals, at least once a month, from the exact same location. Our intent is to produce a one-hour documentary condensing the seasonal cycles in order to evoke questions of time, sustainability and restoration.
With respectful frugality and attention to identifiable details, Molly clipped one each of essential prairie plants for me to take back in my the studio for study:
Heath Aster, New England Aster, Baptista, Bee Balm, Big Blue Stem, Little Blue Stem, Black-eyed Susan, Prairie Clover, Compass Plant, Coreopsis, Culver’s Root, Cup Flower, Grama Side-Oats, Horse Mint, Indian Grass, Indian Plantains, Prairie Drop seeds, Rattlesnake Master, Rosin Weed, Wild Quinine
I savor their names as I draw or discuss them with Colin Dickson, my studio assistant. These sketches will be the basis for the templates needed to etch the glass. Pouring over photographs, I am delighted to realize I can now identify these special prairie species when I spot them growing wild in unexpected places or cultivated in gardens.