Thursday, June 30, 2005

RTT: Green rolling hills by Josh Rosenau

(About RTT.)

So I'm gonna cheat a little and add my own post to this week's 'Round the Table.

The Lawrence Arts Center has a great exhibit of art inspired by the Flint Hills. If you haven't made it down there, you really should go. It's free (suggested donation) and not too long.

There are some great photographs, including some beautiful aerial shots. There are also some beautiful paintings of the landscape, including a large painting with two pillars of prairie fire. But the most interesting was a fiber work close up to the grasses of the prairie.

I've tried photographing out on the Flint Hills, and I have to say it's hard. The problem is that the prairie is simultaneously complicated and monotonous, a mixture that's very hard to capture in any flat medium.

I love working in macro out on the Hills (shooting closeups), but the problem is how to represent the vastness without loosing the detail that brings visual interest. In person, the prairie is beautiful in its vastness, but even a panoramic shot can't capture it.

That's what was so amazing about the fiberwork. By working differently textured fibers into the picture, the artist managed to capture the feel of the grass that you get up close, and to keep that texture up in the background. It was probably the truest representation of the Flint Hills that I've seen.

For those of you wondering about the Flint Hills, I highly recommend PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country by William Least Heat-Moon. The Flint Hills are a geological region extending down into Oklahoma and up to South Dakota. There's so much rock near the surface that no one could ever plow the uplands, meaning that this is the largest remaining region of tallgrass prairie in the world. Once, the tallgrass prairie stretched from Wyoming out to Indiana, from Texas up to Alberta. Now, it's been plowed up most places, but the patches that remain are things of beauty.

Go visit the only National Park in Kansas, the Tallgrass Prairie Nature Preserve, out by Cottonwood Falls. There's nothing like it anywhere.