Painting in the Flint Hills

Painting in the Flint Hills
  • Oil on Linen
  • 46″ x 46″

A show of my work at the Coutts Museum of Art, May 12 – July 31, 2022, in El Dorado, Kansas, was the impetus for painting myself in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Studying an aged 73 year old face was an interesting exercise in humility. I glazed over spots and my kids assured me I’d added too many wrinkles and too much white hair. So perhaps I’m projecting a few years ahead. As for the cattle gathered round, it seldom fails when painting in a pasture or in open range that they mosey over. The original idea for a painting wasn’t those amazing far horizons but the rock cuts we breeze through while driving, most of the time barely acknowledging past history. Exploring the sense of living forever, the fossilized skeletons of Teleoceras (short legged rhinoceros), saber-toothed cat, mammoth, and the mosasaur, and cretaceous ammonoid were laid down in paint, but as in nature, they were soon covered, not by ash, water or earth, but layers of more paint. John McPhee’s stories along I-80 in his book, Basin and Range, provide for geologic time travel. In it he writes “If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.” A more recent past is acknowledged with the bison skull, bison and a few images inspired by Edward Curtis’ photographs of Native Americans. Plenty of bugs hang on and buzz around the prairie plants. A cowgirl rides. As their name implies, the Flint Hills are rocky. This saves much of the land from the plow, allowing for a greater variety of wildlife. I’ve included a few wild ones. For my 70th birthday my daughter had shirts printed for the family with “Never underestimate the importance of encounters with wild things during moments of solitude”. The Flint Hills provide an opportunity for solitude and room for wildness. It is a place of peace. But wherever we are, we are fortunate to be able to stand on land of many ancestors and feel the gift of being alive. Painting is my way to reveal and contemplate that treasure.

3 thoughts on “Painting in the Flint Hills

  1. Spectacular, Nancy! It catches your beautiful face, the joy you radiate to so many around you, and the beauty of the Kansas landscape you love so much. Congratulations!

  2. So much in one painting! Yes, I love that pin on your sweater, but also your red flower bringing in the humming birds.

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