ARTIST IN RESIDENCE BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK
For one month in 2011 I had the huge privilege of being Artist in Residence at The Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA.
I was given accommodation/work space at the Ben Rifle Visitor Centre and ventured out each day in my 1976 VW camper van - complete with diplomatic plates (husband's job).
The smallish, but perfectly formed national park, was an absolute wonder; teeming with wildlife and incredibly diverse in landscape it was a joy to explore. I had some pretty big adventures, from nearly being run over by a herd of bison, to shooting guns with cowboys, but I also spent a huge amount of time just sitting, looking and breathing-in the park. It never ceased to amaze and surprise me. Each day was thrilling. I would get up early - often before sunrise - to go out and discover the park as it was waking up. The colours would slowly develop, creatures would creep out and the air would warm. Between then and nightfall I would watch what seemed like an epic fight for survival; tiny plants pushing through cracked dry earth, ants weaving through enormous barren landscapes, and prairie dogs, scattering from their multiple predators. I had my own mini fight for survival too. I was worried that the van - notoriously unreliable - would break down on one of the empty dirt roads in the park, or on one of the very long drives to the nearest supermarket. I also found that being a single female in my conspicuous vehicle, or out and about with my paints, drew attention in ways that were not always pleasant.
One of the biggest privileges of the residency was having the time to watch the park evolve. I was there on the cusp of a seasonal change, and surprise snowfalls gave way to immense heat and flowering plants. In the end, it was 'watching' that became the habit and, as sometimes happens on residencies, I didn't do a huge amount of painting. I drew and took lots of photographs but mostly I just sat and absorbed. The result is that it is one of the places most deeply etched in my memory. Certain forms, shapes and colours will probably remain in me for the rest of my life, and will undoubtedly seep out through my work over the years.
Below are some of the works I made in/around the park, and some of the work I have made since.