Yoonmi Nam traveled to Prairieside Outpost from her home in Lawrence, KS for a week-long artist residency in July, 2014. Her solo exhibition at The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs in Matfield Green, KS took place in October 2015.
Five months ago, during the hottest days in July, I spent a week in Matfield Green, Kansas. It is winter now, and it is cold. Especially today, it is raining and gray. But even now, when I think about Matfield Green, I see in my mind an infinite blue sky and white clouds, and under it, overwhelming colors of greens and golden yellows. I can instantly feel the sun on my back, and dozens of grasshoppers jumping away as I make my way to the small back yard studio from the cottage house, only about 20 feet away.
The week before I went to Matfield Green, I had just gotten back from traveling for over six weeks. So, the solitude and isolation that the residency allowed me was a wonderful gift. I got there late afternoon on Monday, my car filled with food and art supplies for the week. The cottage was so welcoming, and inside were thoughtfully organized books, lovely objects and beautiful furniture. I thoroughly enjoyed this gift of time and place; I did a lot of drawing, reading, thinking, and cooking.
In the cottage, there were a lot of books! The books that grabbed my attention were the collection of books about the prairie and pioneer life, especially a book about pioneer women. I began reading it during the residency. Another book that was in the cottage was titled PrairyErth. I started reading that as well. There is an amazing sense of connection to the land that even allowed a city girl like me to get a glimpse into how one can feel rooted to the land. However, while both books brought my attention acutely to the land that I was standing on in Matfield Green, Kansas, they also carried my thoughts to a sense of exploration and adventure, and the idea of an unknown place.
Perhaps that is why finding this postcard within the stack of antique postcards in the cottage completely grabbed my attention. This old linen postcard was postmarked July 19, 1941, almost exactly 73 years ago, sent from Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. On the back, it writes, “Hello Frank, Having a great time. Nice and cool here. See you next week. –Dick”. It transported me to the sublime Alaskan landscape and I felt a chill. I made a few drawings of this postcard, both front and back, and even did a drawing of the Mendenhall Glacier looking at Google Earth. Since leaving the residency, I have been working on making them into mokuhanga prints (Japanese style water-based woodblock prints). The front side is done, and I am currently working on the backside of the postcard.
I also did several other drawings and studies, and here are some of them. A couple of them also became prints afterwards.
On Saturday, there was a reception at the Pioneer Bluffs Gallery and the Bank Gallery. I got to see the gallery space where I will be showing my work, and meet some locals. One of them was so kind and drove me around to see the landscape.
On Sunday, I met up with my husband for dinner at Ad Astra Restaurant in Strong City, and then went on a drive as the sun was setting. What a beautiful day it was!
I think about Matfield Outpost residency often. Laura and Chris did such a thoughtful job of creating this magical place, and Ton and Ans made me feel very comfortable. I am so thankful that they shared it with me.