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Homestead 1862 – 2020, Variation is a treatment of the same themes found in
my painting for the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC,
Homestead 1862 – 2020. Rather than a Native American village, you see a young
Native American family forced to migrate because of the influx of settlers looking
for opportunity. A prairie fire lights up the night and a fingernail moon hangs
above the smoke. A Native village is silhouetted on a bend in the river and a bison
herd heads away from the wagons. Carrying hopeful settlers, the wagons are back-lit
by the setting sun. A train brings more homesteaders. The Dust Bowl is represented
behind the farmer's tractor as he plows the deep-rooted prairie to plant annual crops.
In front of her homestead cabin a mother cooks on an open fire while her children
wait patiently in the wheel barrow. Clothes hang on the line, chickens and chicks
are in the yard. A Great Blue Heron soars above the Heritage Center at
Homestead National Monument of America. A mile or so to the north of the park
and view-able from the park is an industrial site for farm chemicals owned by the
Koch Brothers. Evidence of the path farming took after WWII. That industrial site
is noted on the river to the right of the Heritage Center image. Sandhill Cranes
cruise up the river and are reflected in water after landing. Barbed wire is
indicated below the Heritage Center and to the left. Modern farming techniques
are illustrated in the lower left of the painting: mono-culture, confinement
operations for animals, feedlots, irrigation. Farming techniques that have led to
some tragic environmental conditions for life, human and other. The annual
wheat plant root system can be compared to the perennial grain' root system
developed by the Land Institute, called kernza.
The right side of the painting shows a young researcher holding seeds of the kernza plant.
The book shows not only the grain's name but ECO and HOME. For the Ecosphere
program available at the Land Institute where folks are learning to re-establish a
connection with the land, a homecoming of sorts. The Berry Center in KY encourages
similar cultural ways of being as does the Kansas Rural Center. A bison skull sits
outside to entrance to a coyote den. A rabbit races for cover as a Red-tailed hawk hunts. Bugs, fossils
and prairie plants are indicated.
I hope you're able to visit Homestead National Monument of America outside of Beatrice, NE.
When walking the old hedgerow, where in September you may see hundreds of Monarch
butterflies hanging like colorful leaves from the Osage Orange trees, you'll find
Aldo Leopold's meaningful quote on an interpretive panel west of the Heritage Center.
It's an oft quoted statement from his A Sand County Almanac.
“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see
land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”