and Article by Marianne A. KINZER
Chicago represents a triumph of human inventiveness and
technology over nature. The height and grandeur of its
buildings is an answer to the vast flatness of the Midwest.
Multiform, oil on board, 30 x 40
The aesthetic of the wild -- variety, complexity,
similarity but not sameness -- appeals to me.
Imaginative landscape painting, fall 2003
I arrived in the Midwest from Europe three years ago.
My painterly style was rather abstract, but after discovering
Chicago I set off on a new artistic path. I sketched
city scenes, the lakefront, the skyline and the mall
landscapes. After a while I asked myself, what was here
before the city took over?
I learned about the prairie.
soon realized that few people know what the prairie was,
or know that pieces of prairie still exist, or care about
it. In the
past, however, the prairie was a great theme of American
literature and thought:
A Prairie Sunset
gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald,
earth's whole amplitude and Nature's multiform
power consign'd for once
light, the general air possess'd by them -colors
till now unknown,
limit, confine-not the Western sky alone-the high
luminous color fighting the silent shadows to
oil on canvas, 40 x 45
If you stand still and look into the thick greenery
of grasses and wildflowers on the prairie,
you may be enchanted.
Imaginative painting, summer 2003
2)Prairie Sun, oil on canvas, 44 x 54
Prairies can endure hot summers and cold winters,
but so can forests. What really shaped the prairie
landscape was fire. In today's prairie preserves,
controlled burns limit the growth of bushes and
trees. Imaginative painting,
3) In the Wind, Mixed media, 21.5 x 29
You have to look onto the prairie in order to
experience it. Playing with the grasses, the wind draws
One of two imaginative works painted in the studio
over an outdoor sketch.
by William Cullen BRYANT
These are the gardens of the Desert,
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful,
For which the speech of England has no name--
The Prairies. I behold them for the first,
And my heart swells, while the dilated sight
Takes in the encircling vastness. Lo! they
In airy undulations, far away,
As if the ocean, in his gentlest swell,
Stood still with all his rounded billows fixed,
And motionless forever.--Motionless?--
No--they are all unchained again.
The clouds sweep over with their shadows,
The surface rolls and fluctuates through the
Dark hollows seem to glide along and chase
The sunny ridges. Breezes of the South!
Who toss the golden and the flame-like flowers,
And pass the prairie-hawk that, poised on
Flaps his broad wings, yet moves not.
Spring Blooms, watercolor on paper, 23 x 29.5
Wildflowers in the prairie appear in communities
of typical plants. One of the big differences
between wild and planted vegetation is the variety.
There is great diversity of life on a square foot
in a prairie. This is one of the reasons why life
seems to be more intense in the wild.
Unaltered on-site work made in Wolf Road
Prairie in the spring of 2003
Exclusive Club, watercolor on paper,
23 x 29,5
This is one of the oldest plant communities
I have been introduced to when discovering the
prairie. These old plants have deep roots and
survived many fires. This exclusive club of Prairie
Dock, Rattlesnake Master, Compass Plant, various
wildflowers and grasses would not let any other
species penetrate their ranks.
Unaltered on-site watercolor drawing made in Wolf
Road Prairie in the spring of 2003
the prairie and its tall grasses, not the grass of suburban
front lawns but the coarse, tall, sturdy prairie plants,
colorful and varied, symbolized American democracy as
he imagined it: people being different, but not different
in a hierarchical order:
prairie-grass dividing, its special odor
demand of it the spiritual corresponding,
the most copious and close companionship
the blades to rise of words, acts, beings,
of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh,
that go their own gait, erect, stepping with
freedom and command, leading not
with a never-quell'd audacity, those with
sweet and lusty flesh clear'd of
that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents
and governors, as to say Who are
of earth-born passion, simple, never
constrain'd, never obedient
of inland America.
wonder what happened to the spirit of democracy, the strong
middleclass of independent Americans, the proud owners
of small businesses? As for the prairies of the Midwest, it seemed they were lost
prairies were plowed or overgrazed by enormous herds of
cattle. They disappeared under urban sprawl, were
turned into golf courses, cemeteries, malls and parking
lots. They gave way to industrial sites and
1930 Aldo Leopold woke up to the fact that almost all
original native plants east of the Mississippi had been
replaced by European crops, grasses and weeds. He and other environmentalists started
a movement that let to new interest in the original landscape
of the Midwest.
Aldo Leopold and Ray Schulenberg are famous names
among the people who began collecting seeds from the sides
of railroads and cemeteries to restore prairies.
environmentalists fought relentlessly to preserve small
enclaves of virgin prairie. Developers and city clerks
still have a hard time understanding why some people do
not want them to use certain "empty lots" for
the sake of economic growth.
Prairie Dusk, oil on canvas, 44 x 54
The drama of the prairie lies in profound changes
during the seasons and extreme weather conditions.
Imaginative painting created in the studio, late
2) Wilderness, mixed media, 40 x 45
The wilderness is both appealing and appalling.
Urban people have forgotten about the threats of
the wilderness. They also lost touch
with its beauty. Imaginative painting created in
the studio, early spring 2000
Colored pencil and watercolor on paper,
25 x 33
Working outdoors in the prairie resulted in spontaneous
mark making. Low flying grassland birds, prairie
dog or ground squirrel, as well as the shy deer
crossed my path early in the morning. Young grass
moved in the wind while bushes stood waiting.
Unaltered watercolor sketch made in Wolf Road Prairie,
Thanks to environmentalists, the attitude toward landscape
and wilderness has changed.
Maybe we need estrangement to be able to appreciate
the "all but lost."
are now able to look back and reconsider the values of
the past. We can see beauty in the prairie, because
being lost in the wilderness does not pose a threat to
us any more.
Frightening, instead, is the course of civilization.
this situation, nature preserves give us pause from the
stress caused by the highly artificial environment we
live in. Sanctuaries
for the original landscape also help us to perceive and
evaluate changes that have occurred elsewhere.
are lessons to be learned in the wild that teach us about
the interconnectedness of organisms and the beauty and
energy of variety, and about the bliss of being part of
Breakthrough, watercolor on paper, 19 x 25
In early spring the land is barren. The soil is
black and warm from a recent burn. Suddenly the
colors explode in a forceful breakthough of awakening
plants.Unaltered on-site work made in Wolf Road
Prairie, early spring 2003
2) Spring Rain, watercolor on paper, 19 x 25
Spring is a time of breathtaking change. Dead
branches scattered on the prairie soon disappear
under a blanket of fast-growing yellowish green.
Unaltered on-site work made in Wolf Road Prairie,
early spring 2003
_ . _
paintings by Marianne A. Kinzer
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