Exhibit Events (and related Nature Preserve events):
Sunday, August 20: If you received a mailing from the Illinois State Museum and are planning to visit the gallery on the 20th, please come at 1pm for a gallery talk. I will have limited availability after that. Please consider coming instead on the 27th for more gallery tours and a reception!
Saturday, August 26: Pilcher Park Nature Preserve. Joliet, IL
- 10:00 am – I will paint on site and join tour leaders in highlighting the nature and importance of this wooded Nature Preserve. (Pilcher Park Nature Center, 2501 Highland Park Drive, Joliet, IL) RSVP requested. Organized by Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves, this is one of many special tours happening in Nature Preserves throughout Illinois over the weekend commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Illinois Nature Preserve System. (Open this map to find the tour closest to you.)
Sunday August 27: Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, Lockport, IL
- 10:00 am – 11;30 am – I will join Sara Russell, Interpretive Naturalist with the Forest Preserve District of Will County to lead a visit to this rare dolomitic prairie ecosystem. Having painted and researched the site for my Lockport exhibition, I will share my aesthetically-oriented natural history perspective and also paint on site (conditions allowing). RSVP is requested. The Preserve is only one mile from the ISM Gallery. Park in the preserve on Division Street here.
Sunday August 27: Artist Talk, Celebration, and Reception @ Illinois State Museum’s Lockport Gallery
RSVP requested for this free event.
- 2:00 pm – Doors open at the ISM Lockport Gallery.
- 3:00 pm – Gallery Talk: I will discuss the genesis of my prairie works and highlight a number of paintings in the exhibit. I’ll convey the significance of the subject matter and share my experiences in creating the works along with the insights I’ve gained from exploring the nature of Illinois.
- 4:15 pm – Celebration and Reception: We will move one block away to the historic Gaylord Building, a short stroll along the historic I&M Canal. There, I will participate in a discussion about Illinois Nature Preserves with Todd Strole, Executive Director of the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission, and Tori Cunningham, Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves Steward. A cocktail reception will follow.
Monday, August 28: 60th Anniversary Celebration at Illinois Beach State Park
At a special public meeting of the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission, Governor Pritzker will officially recognize August as Illinois Nature Preserve Month. I will participate in the program. RSVP requested.
- 2:00 pm – Illinois Nature Preserve Commission meeting with guest speakers.
- 3:30 – 6:00 pm – Signing ceremony, remarks, hors d’oeuvres, cake, and cocktails.
As an artist, I’m enthralled by tallgrass prairie. Its beauty, rich ecology, and fascinating history are the essential ingredients in what I believe makes a compelling landscape. As a nature lover, I can’t get enough of it. I find it moving to set foot in a true prairie remnant where I can ponder the profusion of flowers and grasses and imagine how the patch of prairie in front of me could once have covered millions of acres.
In 2013, after falling in love with several prairie remnants and restorations in the Chicago area, Illinois’s grasslands began calling to me. I was inspired to seek a wider view of the nearly extinct ecosystem that gave Illinois, my mother’s home state, its nickname the Prairie State. Over an eight-year period, on more than a dozen trips from my home in Athens, Georgia, I was able to explore and paint many of the sites that hold the last .01% of Illinois’ original prairie, first presented in my 2021 exhibit Picturing the Prairie at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Works from that exhibit plus several new pieces are featured here in a celebration of the conservation legacy of the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission. The commission was created by a far-sighted act of the state legislature in 1963 to “assist private and public landowners in protecting high quality natural areas and habitats of endangered and threatened species.” Since then, over 600 important ecological sites have been protected, providing refuge for hundreds of species of plants and animals, and offering Illinoisans, and visiting artists, a glimpse of Illinois’ landscape before European settlement. Twenty-three of those preserves are featured in this exhibit.
The paintings range geographically from the shore of Lake Michigan to the southern end of the state. They illustrate the visual variety found in remnant prairies based on physical characteristics such as topography and soil, their management history, and the ephemeral qualities of weather and season. While most of these canvases were painted in my studio, several of the smaller works were painted on location, sometimes rather quickly. Together, they represent multiple aspects of the tallgrass landscape I’ve come to cherish. For example, as a southerner more accustomed to densely forested environments, I find the long views in prairies irresistible.
I’m equally fascinated by the relationship between humans and nature that has made it possible for prairies to persist east of the Mississippi River. Modern Illinois prairies not only require protection from development and farming; they must also receive substantial human care to keep them from being choked by invasive plants or shaded out by trees. That stewardship continues a long history of human influence on this grassland ecosystem. For millennia, Indigenous people adapted Illinois’s landscapes to their advantage, favoring prairies over forest through their use of fire. After a long absence, fire is again being used as one of several tools for maintaining and restoring prairie remnants, something I’ve been fortunate to capture in my paintings. By re-embracing the traditional role of prairie stewards, we humans will ensure that the distant views over the profuse blooms of intact remnant prairies can be experienced long into the future.
Illinois Nature Preserves featured in the Exhibit
- Hanover Bluff, Jo Daviess County
- Ayers Sand Prairie, Carroll County
- Munson Township Cemetery Prairie, Henry County
- Foley Sand Prairie, Lee County
- Nachusa Grasslands, Lee County
- Illinois Beach, Lake County
- Somme Prairie Grove, Cook County *
- Spring Lake, Cook County
- Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Cook County
- Springbrook Prairie, Du Page County
- Lockport Prairie, Will County
- Gensburg-Markham Prairie, Cook County
- Goose Lake Prairie, Grundy County
- Sunbury Railroad Prairie, Livingston County
- Pembroke Savanna, Kankakee County
- Prospect Cemetery Prairie, Ford County
- Loda Cemetery Prairie, Iroquois County
- Henry Allan Gleason Preserve, Mason County
- Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Preserve, Mason County
- Revis Spring Hill Prairie, Mason County
- Fults Hill Prairie, Monroe County
- Beadles Barrens, Edwards County
- Cave Creek Glade, Johnson County
* New preserve so webpage not yet created. Linked to adjacent Somme Prairie Preserve.