Studying the Landscape: Observation, Conservation, and Restoration

January 18 - March 30, 2024

University Art Gallery

University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee

January 31, 5 p.m. Artist’s talk and discussion, Guerry Auditorium. Followed by Gallery reception.

The Gallery is located on Georgia Avenue between Convocation Hall and Guerry Hall. The hours are: Tuesday–Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday: Noon to 4 p.m. The Gallery is closed during academic breaks.

Painting by Philip Juras of imagined precolonial scene at Catoosa WMA Tennessee.

Over 20 oil paintings of landscapes from Tennessee, Illinois, and Georgia explore the aesthetics, ecology, and history of environments shaped by recurring natural disturbances, especially fire. The scenes, particularly the smaller field paintings, record my impressions from several of the managed natural areas I’ve visited while investigating fire adapted grasslands, savannas, and woodlands east of the Mississippi River—a region where there is otherwise enough rainfall for forests to dominate the landscape. Some of the larger works recreate views of those sites as I imagine them before European-American settlement. Almost all represent remnants of once common ecosystems whose affiliated plant and animal species are now in decline and whose continued existence depends on our stewardship, much as they depended on people’s historic use of fire for their widespread establishment. In these “natural” landscapes, humans are very much a part of nature, rather than apart from it.

Fire adapted grasslands and woodlands are largely unknown to today’s inhabitants of the eastern United States although they were well known for millennia to Indigenous Americans and also briefly to the European-Americans who supplanted them. In part this was because while they were still somewhat widespread, these landscapes failed to gain the cultural recognition and celebrity enjoyed by verdant northeastern forests and dramatic western mountains, preferred subjects of 19th century American landscape painters and early photographers. Most importantly, the landscapes themselves vanished with the wildland fire suppression that accompanied agricultural conversion of grasslands, the closing of the open range, the building of roads and settlements, and more recently the widespread fire suppression policies of the mid-20th century.

These paintings aim to address that discrepancy by portraying forgotten grassland and woodland ecosystems that are once again benefiting from our attention.

December Effects

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Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
2023

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Private collection

Winter Evening

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Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve, Mason County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Available

Beadles Barrens

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Edwards County, Illinois
2022

Oil on canvas 36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Available

Catoosa Savanna Contemplation

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Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee
2023

Oil on canvas 30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.7 cm)
Private collection

Smoke Plume over Tallulah

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Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia
2022

Oil on canvas 30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.7 cm)
Private collection

Nachusa Bison, June

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Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
2022

Oil on canvas 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)
Available

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

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Cook County, Illinois
2022

Oil on canvas 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)
Private collection

Prairie Domain

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Eastern Highland Rim, Tennessee
2024

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Private collection

Doug’s Knob, October

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Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
October 20, 2017

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Available

Ayers Sand Prairie

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Carroll County, Illinois
2023

Oil on canvas 18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)
Available

Orchid Swale

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Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 2, 2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Available

Backlit Swale

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Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 1, 2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Available

Color Study with Ungulates

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Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 1, 2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Available

Rainy Afternoon

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Illinois Beach State Park, Lake County, Illinois
July 12, 2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Private collection

Prairie Dock Sunset

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Gensburg-Markham Prairie, Cook County, Illinois
2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Available

Shortleaf Pine Savanna Study

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Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee
2023

Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Private collection

Caney Fork Scour Glade

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Rock Island State Park, Tennessee
August 30, 2023

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Daddy Creek Scour Glade

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Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 30, 2023

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Backing Uphill

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Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 23, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Watchout Situation

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Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia
February 26, 2014

Oil on paper 10 x 10 in. (25.4 x 25.4 cm)
Available

Fall Burn 3

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Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
November 15, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Available

Sunset

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Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia
April 12, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Available

Limestone Bluffs

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Fults Hill Prairie, Monroe County, Illinois
June 11, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Private collection

Sun through Smoke

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Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia
April 12, 2018

Oil on paper 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Artist's collection

Leaf Litter and Branches

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Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia
March 17, 2016

Oil on paper 7.5 x 7.5 in. (19.1 x 19.1 cm)
Available