Lilly McElroy worked as an Artist-in-Residence at Prairieside Outpost in January 2019. During her time there, Lilly worked on a variety of projects through drawing, photography and research. She especially enjoyed the chance to slow down during this winter residency, enjoying the quiet and restful, restorative pace in rural Kansas. Lilly is currently an artist in the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Artist Residency Program in Kansas City, MO, where she is active in both curating exhibitions and exhibiting her own work.
A few days into my residency at Prairie Side Outpost, I was in the studio working on a durational sanding project and listening to a podcast about silence. I don’t remember the name of the podcast, but I do remember it’s main argument. It was in favor of silence because, according to the scientist being interviewed, silence is beneficial to the brain. I have not done any follow-up research about this topic. However, I liked their argument. I was alone at the residency, except for my dog, and the silence I was experiencing felt physical. There was a weight to it that encouraged me to slow down and pay attention. This quiet also felt restful. Unless I turned on a podcast or made a phone call, there were no human voices. It was just me, with my dog, listening to the sounds we generated, the sounds animals around us generated, and the sounds that drifted in over the fields.
My time at the residency was productive. I spent time working on that sanding project, scanned a backlog of negatives, made new photographs, and made some experimental drawings that I’m still trying to figure out. I also read a book and a couple of essays, watched a lot of westerns, cooked food for myself, and went running on dirt roads. However, the biggest gift I received while at Prairie Side Outpost was the quiet; the chance to slow down and focus on things that are easily missed.
Here is a list of the best things that I heard:
1. Trains passing by in the distance.
2. The sound of the neighbor’s radio playing on a Saturday morning while they worked outside.
3. The house settling.
4. My dog barking at the deer that was outside my bedroom window at 6 one morning.
5. My dog barking at a possum that was in the yard around 11pm one night.
6. My dog barking at the darkness as soon as it got dark, every night.
7. Birds rustling in branches.
9. The wind blowing through tall grass.
10. My boots crunching on snow while I took my dog for a walk.
11. Me turning the pages of a magazine.
12. Trucks being driven towards me on dirt roads while I was out running.
13. Water boiling for coffee.
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more about Lilly McElroy and her work can be found at https://lillymcelroy.com/