Vedauwoo, Wyoming

On my drive to Idaho, I stopped at a state park in Wyoming called Vedauwoo, which means “earthborn spirits” in Arapaho. It is an incredible place of towering rock formations and bluffs, where Native Americans came to have vision quests. I pulled in late at night and could only see the rocks within my headlights, and I actually got a little spooked by how powerful this place felt in the dark! When I got up at sunrise and stepped out of my van, I was awed looking around me at the circle of crazy rocks I found myself in. I explored all day and had some great meditations on the rocks. I realized that I have been holding on to a lot of fear about funding this trip, and it was a great place to let it all go, and trust that everything will work out as long as I trust myself think positive. It was also a great place to count my blessings, and realize how much I do have to be grateful for.

After that I drove all day through Wyoming, which is just incredibly vast and empty, with long expanses of rocky terrain and scrubby desert brush, ringed with mountains in the distance. I could see the weather for miles away, and watched lightning and rain storms in the distance while I drove in the sunshine. After watching one storm for over an hour I finally drove into it and it was like driving into a car wash. Water was spraying in the vents on my dashboard!

Blessed Belly

I arrived in Sun Valley, Idaho to visit my oldest childhood friend, Jody, and her husband Craig. I arrived just in time to hear the Dalai Lama speak as he visited the region. We were fortunate enough to actually get to meet him for a moment and have him bless Jody’s pregnant belly! Here she is with her blessed belly, which I body-painted for her, by the Big Wood River.

Hot Springs in Idaho!

Visiting the hot springs on the Big Wood River. The air was COLD but the sulphur springs were HOT! You could see the boiling water bubbling underwater, and it was crucial not to get too close to the bubbles or they would burn. …Here is Craig doing his best Dalai Lama impression.

Life is good in Idaho!

WISCONSIN: “White Pine Dress”

The next dress project took place in Seely, Wisconsin at Castle Gardens, a small home-farm owned by Dan and Margaret Krause. While working on this project I stayed at my friend Amy Maxon’s family cabin in nearby Stone Lake. We used tree limbs recently blown off the many white pines at Castle Gardens. “Phorpa” the dog thought my pile of materials was a bed made just for her.

Josey was visiting Castle Garens and kept me company while I built the dress form. I made her a crown with extra chicken wire and she filled it with flowers. Here she is wearing her masterpiece.

Karen and I worked late into the night to finish the 12-foot-tall dress form for “White Pine Dress”.

With a little help from “Gray Nose” the cat.

Dan graced us with music from his home-made Native American flute.

Attaching the branches to the dress form took five people about four hours to complete. Here I am with Karen and Calvin.

I was just another tree for the cat to climb.

The completed “White Pine Dress”

Karen looked great in “Pine Dress”!

And Calvin gave it a try-on as well…

The crew! Many, many thanks to my friends, helpers and hosts. From left: Dan Krause, Margaret Krause, Calvin Ramseyer, Amy Maxon and Karen O’Mara.

IOWA: “Prairie Dress”

The Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center in Toddville, IA graciously agreed to host the Iowa dress project, “Prairie Dress”. They are working hard to convert their acquired land back to the natural prairie that once covered Iowa.

We needed to secure a permit to allow us to cut the prairie grasses. Here are Craig and Felicia collecting material.

Here Cynthia and Paloma are weaving grass into the wire armature for the dress. I found volunteers to help with the project through a local art gallery and also by searching online.

The completed “Prairie Dress”

I thought it was fitting with the nature of this Great Plains state to keep Iowa’s dress low to the ground.

This project would not have been possible without my awesome volunteers, who spent a day with me under the hot sun, attacked by ticks and mosquitos, to make “Prairie Dress” happen. From left: Leif Zalewski, Felicia Taylor (hair and make-up), Craig Volesky, Stewart McCoy (holding the wire dress form), Cynthia Wittstruck, and Paloma Jamal Scheck.

Iowa is in America’s heartland, the great prairie lands that became the farming breadbasket for the United States. I found out during my work on “Prairie Dress” that the natural environment of Iowa has been reduced to 1/10 of 1% to make room for farming and housing. In other words, if Iowa was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, only one piece would be undeveloped nature.

“Pieces of History” Mural in Wadena, MN

For the entire month of June, I have been painting as part of a community project in Wadena, MN.

My assistant Michael Beachy, a local art student, and project director David Evert working behind him.

BEFORE… this is what the wall looked like before we started.

And AFTER… the finished mural! It is intended to look like a big jigsaw puzzle, to fit with the “Pieces of History” theme of the project. This is the first in what it is hoped will be an onoing project to depict the history of Minnesota in Wadena.

It’s an orgy of bird life, with blue herons and the state bird, the loon, which is almost as big as a goose, and its babies ride on its back!

Details of eagles. Notice the painted turtle on the log, which was painted in on the last day on the town barber’s request.

I could not have done it without the help of many, many friends, including Hope, who is helping me here to touch up nail holes once it was installed.

Catching a big Northern pike with new friends in MN. (…note the plastic gloves; it all seems a little icky to this city girl)

Tornado hits Minnesota!

On June 20, a tornado and wind storm hit both the county I am living in (Ottertail) and the county I am working in (Wadena). I was painting the mural indoors at the Wadena Emporium when the storm hit: the sky turned green with black swirling clouds, hail rained down, and the windows shook. Then the sky went dark. The power went out and we all sat by candlelight listening to the radio, until the local station got hit by lightning, and the radio went out. I am lucky enough to be painting in a very secure building, so many people fled the storm to join us in our candlelit safety, including one woman who had seven trees fall in her yard, one through her roof. What surprised me most was how graciously everyone weathered the weather, even those with massive damage to their property seemed affably awed by the power of nature. The home I am staying at in Ottertail is just not the same, as all the trees on the property were lost. Here is a picture of my yard after the storm.

The top of this tree was lopped off right next to the house. Although much damage was done in two counties, I haven’t heard about any injuries, and many houses were luckily just missed by falling trees.

Man VS. Nature…. nature wins!

It was tragic to see all the beautiful old trees felled by the winds.

First Stop

Ottertail, Minnesota (population 451) is where I am laying my head these days, while I paint a mural in the neighboring town of Wadena. Small town life is something to get used to again after Chicago. I need to remember to pay AFTER pumping gas, and get used to people looking at me like I’m crazy when I lock my car door. I was near here last year with the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, making the Corn Dress, and the Alley Arts project in Wadena asked me to come back and help get an ambitious mural project started in their town.

The New York Mills Cultural Center has graciously allowed me to use their beautiful upstairs studio space to work on wire dress forms for the next project.

First Days on the Road

Driving through Sauk City, WI, the sky lit up with an amazing rainbow, a good omen for the journey! I am on my way to Wadena, MN, to help the town with a mural project they are starting. I will try to jump over to the Dakotas on my days off to create a dress sculpture…. Does anyone have any contacts in North or South Dakota?