Haibun style travel log of the Tallgrass Artist Residency, Matfield Green, July 2020
What a gift during this crazy year ten days out on the prairie safe, in solitude and surrounded by the unexpected beauty of grassland. As this was my very first residency, I was eager to plan out a variety of things to do, because I was unsure how I would react to the new environment and isolation. I packed up many things, so I could reach for supplies depending on which way inspiration tugged on me. One thing I was not prepared for was the relentless heat out on the prairie, as there is no escape from the sun, no shade to be found. I had to limit my wanderings, but I felt fortunate because the early morning walk was like being among glistening stars under foot, as the myriad of dewdrops sparkled in the first rays of sunlight.
Red ribbon thrown across,
greeted with frenzied choir
gleaming green carpet
I knew that I wanted to continue my recent explorations with pinhole photography. Luckily the bathroom at my residency was perfectly suited for a makeshift dark room for developing the images. I was lugging around a selection of my newly made pinhole cameras trying to capture the view of the prairie as a box sees it. I must have been a funny sight, a Twinings Earl Gray can attached to a tripod facing the view. But the hills were empty of people, only birds could give a passing judgment.
Giant blue blanket
dotted white lays over land
fragile, verdant plain
Plants are my constant inspiration and I wanted to work with the local flora. I wanted to make a printed scroll, which unrolls like the expanding landscape of the prairie. I made a felted paper scroll (joomchi) and treated it for cyanotyping prior to my trip. What I did not anticipate was the constant wind, which was blowing away my plant material as they were laid out on the scroll while making the cyanogram print out in the sun. In retrospect, this was another funny moment trying to control unruly grasses taking flight. Eventually, I made two prints using both sides of the scroll.
Dainty yellow heads
of wild lettuce dance around,
cleansing prairie wind
As I walked on the trail, giant grasshoppers led the way noisily in front of me like a fancy parade. I could not help but to focus on the ground ahead of me noticing tiny mushrooms and busy beetles between the pebbles, plants with large insects sheltering in the shade of their leaves.
Trrrrr, hopp, hopp, trrrrr, hopp
flying horses flee my step
sun parched prairie earth
Looking at the land is so different when you experience it from the car and view the large vistas as they pass by on the road. Driving off the paved highway and traveling on unknown country roads was a thrill. Not knowing where the road leads and for how many miles it goes without any sign of human habitation is a strange thing for a city person. But the beauty unfolding around me was all the more wondrous.
Thread of dirt woven
up, down hugging air and land
road leading beyond
Dora Agbas arrived to the edge of Kansas from Hungary three decades ago as a biomedical research scientist. Now she is a full time artist, still based in the Kansas City area, pursuing her MFA degree at the University of Kansas.
Her primary medium is fiber; her practice explores place through investigating its materials. Inspired by our natural surroundings she is harvesting and using overlooked and ephemeral plant waste as building element for her work, which invites a closer look at the otherwise unnoticed. She believes that this quiet observation is so needed in order to increase our respect for the environment.