Seeing the Beauty in Plants Along the Missouri National Recreational River
This series focuses on over 80 different wildflowers, shrubs, and other plants that I have encountered as I walked in the hills and along the river on my family’s property. The land has a diverse terrain, with grassland intersected by deep draws, a wooded river bottom, and a large sandbar in the Missouri River. Some plants prefer the shade of the woods, but others thrive in the full sun in the hills or along the gravel road that passes through the property. It’s an adventure to discover both familiar and new wildflowers as I walk through these areas.
Through direct experience and reading, I am learning about the variety of plants that live here, as well as their biology, cultural history and relationships to wildlife and the larger ecosystem. I am fascinated by their stages of growth, bloom and decay over the seasons. Adapting to a tough environment, they are battered by wind and rain, blasted by the sun, trampled on by cows and chewed on by insects. Birds thrive on their seeds, and bees flourish on their pollen. Each plant is in a constant cycle of transformation.
Although scientific and cultural knowledge deepens my understanding of the plants, my greatest delight is in learning to really see plants and to appreciate their diverse and complex colors, shapes and textures. My primary goal is artistic. I hope to create a dramatic portrait of each plant that celebrates their beauty, strength and fragility. Each flower—even the weeds—encourages a sense of awe and wonder at the complexity and diversity of the natural world.
I photograph the plants when I am out walking and later, on my computer, I digitally cut out unwanted areas around the plants, refine qualities such as contrast and sharpness, and then layer the remaining images on photographs I have taken of the sky, often on different days. I call these works “photoconstructions.” It is a time-consuming, exploratory process. Each plant presents different artistic challenges as I work to make compositions that combine the details of photography with the expressiveness of painting. When I am finished, I put a border around each composition to add visual tension and complement the colors of the image.