Where I’m Looking for water in the Kansas Flint Hills

The morning fog is burning off along Volland Road.

This lucky artist recently spent 10 days in a unique region in eastern Kansas (also Oklahoma and Nebraska) where, because of the underlying geology, the land was long ignored for typical agricultural purposes, leaving the native tall grasses to thrive. Now these “Flint Hills,” and the remaining ancient and untouched tall grass prairie which they support, are treasured and guarded by stalwart residents and outsiders who recognize the value in protecting the land, water, species, history and stories for future generations.

The Tallgrass Artist Residency, for me, provided an opportunity to think about ‘water’ in a place where the tendency has been lack of it! Where is it, what does that mean for us, and how might I visually translate in my own vocabulary, what I find here?….First, to give you the flavor:

IMG_2009croppedThe Volland Store was my home. South of Alma, Kansas, this smartly restored general store once served a thriving community. Today, owner proprietor Patty Reece offers “Art / Community” in the spacious gallery and a Loft for spending nights. I arrived to the evidence of the day’s rain on the table outside.

Mornings I walked up Volland Road, briefly paralleling West Branch Mill Creek…on it’s way to the Gulf… It was in that context of it’s longer journey that the meandering Mill Creek became a fascination and focus of exploration during my residency.

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Relative to the typical rolling Flint Hills landscape, this is greener low country.

IMG_1940The sun is just starting to break through on this foggy morning. (fog=water!)…This view was just across the train tracks that border Volland Store property. The featured image at the top is on Volland Road beyond those tracks.

West Branch Mill Creek, as seen just SW of Volland, in the evening;

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Mill Creek, East of Alma, is robust and colorful, here, looking upstream.

Ripples, reflections, watery favorite. Clouds in the water, Mill Creek south of Alma…from the very wide new bridge.

IMG_1756Also from scenic Hi-way 99 south of Alma, Kansas. Clouds, clouds…

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No water here!  Dry creek beds sometimes indicate dried up springs from ground water depletion, an increasing concern.

 

You are invited:

THE 2017 TALLGRASS ARTIST RESIDENCY SYMPOSIUM, in Manhattan, Kansas, at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art (10:00 – 2:00), AND TALLGRASS ARTIST RESIDENCY EXHIBITION, in Matfield Green, Kansas, at The Bank Artspace (4:00 – 6:00), both happen on SEPTEMBER 23RD

cropped artworkforBLOGYou will find additional details online or on Facebook…

“Tallgrass Artist Residency”

When do lots of Drops become a puddle?

It happened in May-June of 2017 in Kansas City, MO:

TRIBUTARY -“An exploration of the Missouri River, real and metaphorical” was a month-long deep-dive series of exhibits and programs sponsored primarily* by KC’s amazing Charlotte Street Foundation with  hydrologist Don Wilkison (aka M.O.I. – The Minister of Information) as chief organizer/curator. Artists and scientists presented contemporary art, current scientific research, interactive natural resource workshops and big river adventures to build understanding and appreciation of our nearby very long, complex and valuable natural resource, the Missouri River. It was an inspiring reminder of the value of collaboration across disciplines where parallel mingling of artistic and scientific approaches to problem solving include observation, experience, and intuition.

My contribution included…………

Drops in Petri Dishes, 2016-2017, Glass, acrylic, paper vellum, pencil, ink
Drops in Petri Dishes, 2012-2017, Glass, acrylic, paper vellum, pencil, ink…(c) The dishes are numbered with a hand-engraving tool. There were 55 “Drops” displayed on a white-topped desk-height table, near the broad south-facing front windows of La Esquina Gallery.

Drops in Petri Dishes represents actual places around the world where water meets land, and are “collected” in many cases from places where there is an issue such as water quality, water scarcity, or flooding. There are a few rare “drops” from places where there actually no longer is water, usually because of diversion, drought, or lack of snow-melt.

I’m continuing to add to this collection periodically with no end in sight currently. To date I have collected 125 drops.

To be clear…the collecting/finding part is fiction. “Find” means “make” though I sometimes “find” news stories which, eventually lead to a new Drop. The places depicted and abstracted are real, based on satellite mapping. I started making the drops in 2012, the petri dishes came later…the perfect frame, storage and metaphor.

I have the potential for lots of puddles in my flat files!!

*with additional funding support from Missouri Arts Council and ARTSKC.

 

“Paper Rivers” wall installation a nine foot reach

Every curvy line represents a place where water meets land on the surface of our earth.
Every curvy edge represents a place where water meets land on the surface of our earth. These approximately one hundred pieces of printed archival paper, cut into the shapes of the rivers and surrounding land forms, previously printed as complete images, now connect to each other to form branches, veins, tributaries, as you wish.
Detail of my first ever wall installation!
Detail of my first ever wall installation! (There are five separate pieces within the foreground arched branch.)

Untitled wall installation from my broader “Paper Rivers” solo show at Gillis Gallery (now Gillis Art Lab, in keeping with their intent to showcase experimental work, completed or not.)

Wish I had taken more detail photos! Lesson learned.

 

The experiment that became a show: “Paper Rivers”

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Artists do these weird things. Like fiddle with what they’ve already done. (Also called “revisiting.”) What was “done,” work completed, can be undone or extended and amplified. That’s what happened with this collection and it was so much fun! The history is convoluted, much like a river…

Several years ago, I did these oil paintings of actual river paths – from satellite perspective, our contemporary version of landscape(?). (one body of work.) Later I realized that taking photos across the surface of those oil paintings, from a low angle, and cropping them tightly, revealed curves and perspectives that were so appealing!…as if looking at our world from an airplane or mountain top. I can relate to that. (another body of work.) More recently I pulled one full set (40+) of the archival pigment prints of those photos, along with proofs, along with my X-acto knife, and started isolating the rivers and land depicted in the prints into pieces and parts. Moving these new shapes around, stacking, shifting, and pondering, over and over, I teased the designs into this new body of work which I’ve called “Paper Rivers.” So, these still represent the paths of actual rivers and chunks of land on the skin of our earth, but mashed up a little…or a lot…maybe akin to some of the things we humans do to our natural world.


Near the Missouri River, in the historic Columbus Park neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, you will find a cluster of galleries open on third Fridays…now including, the new GILLIS GALLERY, 1029 East 5th Street, which opens with “Paper Rivers” on Friday, May 19th! … and You Are invited!!

OPENING RECEPTION, Friday, May 19th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm; Saturday, May 20th, 12:00 – 4:00. // Closing Reception, Friday, June 16th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm; Saturday, June 17th, 12:00 – 4:00.  Also by appointment via email to lynn@lynnbenson.com  (Don’t be shy, but please do allow several days!)

See ya up the hill from the river!

( ∧ )  Water Finds a Way, 2017, collage of pigment prints, 7″ x 26″

“Four Cups” travels on to Kentucky!

“Order and Chaos” is this year’s theme for a National Chautaqua taking place throughout the academic year at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.

Along with an annual Chautaqua Lecture Series, the Department of Art and Design’s Giles Gallery features works from 58 artists and 26 states in an exhibition, ORDER AND CHAOS, January 26 – February 22. I am honored that Four Cups was chosen from the hundreds of entries!


With what feels to be a timely theme, I want to share my statement accompanying the work, Four Cups:

“While water isn’t orderly, we have certain expectations for water –– the primary focus of my current artistic life. It rains, it flows and trickles in our creeks and rivers, it freezes into sleet and ice cubes. It fills vast spaces between land masses, creating broad oceans and bays. At home, most of the U.S. population can turn the handle on a faucet and, as prescribed by a city’s codes, the water will flow. And we expect that water to be “up to code” chemically. The chemists label it H20 (H-2-0) and we understand the order in that. But in recent years, there are things happening that go beyond the storms of nature, the droughts of seasons, the muddying of rivers. The chemistry in our oceans is changing from extra carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Our rivers, lakes and gulf waters have seen pollution from oil spills (Alabama Coast), mining (Animas River), lead in pipes (Flint), and farm runoff (Toledo). Here’s to vigilance, to avoid a water supply fallen to chemical chaos.”

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“Four Cups” in Brooklyn show!

Brooklyn’s 440 Gallery is now featuring a juried national exhibition, entitled “Personal is political is personal.”

I’m thrilled to be a part of this with Four Cups, shown above.

Thanks to juror, Sue Coe, for including me in this intriguing and powerful collection of work. The show title caught my interest immediately. I designed Four Cups specifically in response to the call for entries, wishing to  capture in a simple, direct way my deep concern for the state of water, ultimately our most precious resource, and the focus of my current work!

The inside view of the cups tells more of the story………………..

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Through August 7th, 2016; 440 Sixth Street, Brooklyn, NY

Inquiries welcome: lynn@lynnbenson.com

 

Waterplaces has a new home at “The Beach”

I am so thrilled to announce this!….

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The entire WATERPLACES collection of works on paper, shown above from the Fall 2015 exhibition at the Kansas City Design Center, has been purchased by The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas, to be housed in the museum’s permanent collection. “The Beach” is a part of Kansas State University and impresses me so! The staff have been fantastic to work with. It’s fair to say that the people of mid and western Kansas have a keen awareness of the importance of water so this is a great fit in that respect. And their very fine collection, focused on regional work, is clearly steadily being enriched with some exciting additions!

WATERPLACES will be unveiled at the museum in a solo show in the Spring of 2018, but in the meantime watch Instagram for an upcoming slow feed of images from the collection…including, below, New River Inlet, North Carolina (Camp LaJeune).

Look for @thewaterplacesproject on Instagram beginning sometime June, 2016.New River @ Camp Lejeune

 

 

 

 

 

“Drops in Petri Dishes” invited to Idaho State show!

Co-sponsored by Idaho State University, “Water Ecologies”  runs March 28 – May 7th in Pocatello.

Guest juror, Basia Irland, chose to include me in this group show and I couldn’t be happier!! Partly because I admire her work so much, and partly because the show seems like the perfect fit for Drops in Petri Dishes, an installation which was born in the summer of 2012 when so much of the western portion of the U.S. experienced severe and distressing drought. I stopped what I was doing and started making “drops” reflecting specific water places, and nonspecific natural regions, oceans, rivers. Each drop felt sacred, precious, and singular.

The original drops were mostly small and I’ve incorporated them into various experimental works over the last several years. The current Drops in Petri Dishes are larger and this, so far, is my favorite format for these gems.IMG_2401(Here the Hudson River flows past the site of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, approximately 25 miles north of New York City.)

Can’t wait to receive photos of the show from ISU’s Department of Arts and Letters!

Photos from Waterplaces exhibition in downtown KC

It takes a pro to capture forty-seven feet of delicate, translucent works. Thanks to friend and photographer E.G. Schempf I am able XLBenson_WATERPLACES exhibit section_2015to share, here, this first exhibition of the 100 WATERPLACES works. Thanks also to Vladimir Krystic, Director of KCDC, and Sarah Kraly, Executive Assistant, who supported this project in myriad ways during it’s 6-week run. And that’s only the beginning of the list of experts from our city, regional, environmental, and arts communities who contributed to the artist talk and panel discussion focused on water.

(Click images to enlarge for quality)

brLBenson_WATERPLACES (detail showing 6 of 100 works)

When you get closer you can see a little more about the hanging method, with the works on paper vellum captured within two additional sheets of vellum, strategically folded at the edges. Clockwise from upper left: Oil about the River (Williston, North Dakota); Simpson Desert, Australia; Brazoria (National Wildlife Refuge in Texas); Grand Canal (Venice); Detroit; Falkland Islands. Fragile places! Each has a story or information page in the binders which accompany the exhibition, complete, in some cases, with citations from national and international news, governmental, or scientific sources. Content related to each Waterplace varies from a few sentences to a full page.

Here’s another photo: a close-up of the corner of Papua, New Guinea.

#1_Corner_shows hanging method_Papua (detail)

For more photos/info: lynn@lynnbenson.com.  This show needs to travel!

The Show Poster and The City…

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For those walking along Baltimore in downtown Kansas City, the poster for my Waterplaces exhibition may have looked like this…depending on the time of day, the reflections from the city, and the light on of those stunning lime green accents within the Kansas City Design Center. KCDC is home base to an academic program for graduate architecture, urban design and landscape design students, ready to tackle real-world projects…and with a constant underpinning of sustainability. Our interests overlapped beautifully!

(www.kcdesigncenter.org)