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|Essig Residency 2012-2013|
Giving Voice to the Greater Prairie Community
Like the human characters in Willa Cather's novels, the vast communities of botanical individuals that comprise the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie have each got a story to tell. Through an artist's residency, Matilda Essig will endeavor to give visual voice to the amazing individuality of indigenous species that exist on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.
The Prairie consists of 608-acres of never-been-plowed, native grassland. Over the past three years, the Willa Cather Foundation has worked to restore the Prairie to its native state, a time before overgrazing and the encroachment of man and foreign plant species. Preservation of the Prairie is part of a holistic approach to the study of America's art, history, and culture through the works of Willa Cather, who was a great champion of prairie lands. With the Foundation's dual mission of natural and cultural preservation, we are uniquely poised to engage with Matilda Essig's objectives of blending the arts and sciences, and promoting the use of art as a tool for conservation.
This project would consist of an artist's residency that will result in the creation of an exhibit consisting of approximately twenty-five large format portraits of native plants. First, Matilda Essig will spend time on the prairie learning about and photographing various plant species in order to plan for the digital imagery phase of the residency. In the digital imagery phase, Essig will bring her high resolution imaging equipment to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to create a series of portraits of botanical characters of the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. By using digital imaging technology, Matilda is able to portray tiny subjects at a grand scale, where the viewer can explore and experience the form of each plant with ease.
The Willa Cather Foundation's management of the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is guided by a committee of biologists, agriculturalists, and educators. Foundation staff and Matilda Essig will work closely with this committee to ensure that her residency occurs during the most optimal time in the growing season and that she is aware of the location of rare species of plants that exist on the Prairie.
If you would like to donate to the Essig Residency please click on the "DONATE NOW" button below, select "Cather Prairie Restoration," then specify what your donation is for by typing "Essig Residency" in the text box at the bottom of the page. Please call Jennifer at 866.731.7304 if you have any questions. Thank you!
Matilda Essig grew up in the eastern woodland of Pennsylvania, in a world full of art and agriculture. She received her BA from Reed College, and was trained in classical painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York. After 10 years working in Natural Science Illustration in the Sonoran Desert, she returned to fine art with the tools of the future, and began to use digital imaging technology to explore the subtle diversity of open space in the American West. Inspired both by the beauty of grasslands, and by her perceptual experiences in traditional illustration, she now portays her subjects with a fidelity that transcends her own hand. Her work is in private and corporate collections, national parks, and wildlife refuges throughout the southwest. Her clientele has included Dr. Jane Goodall, National Geographic, the US Department of the Interior, and Oxford University Press, among others. She lives on five acres of grasslands that she restored in the Apache Highlands of southeast Arizona. She keeps a traditional painting studio too.