Two local artists are trying to reflect the wildness and harmony of the tallgrass prairie, each in their own style.
“Prairie Perspectives,” which opened at Manhattan Arts Center Friday, features paintings by Kelly Yarbrough Frasier and woven baskets by Marsha Jensen. Both women are inspired by the tallgrass prairie and found similarities in their approaches despite their different media.
“Relationships are huge in this show, in our work and in the prairie,” Frasier said.
Frasier and Jensen both volunteer with the MAC and offered to collaborate to fill up a gallery opening. Both artists are inspired by the textures and colors found in the prairie. Frasier paints large contemporary landscapes. Jensen weaves a variety of styles of baskets. In bringing together their pieces for the exhibit, they have found they each have created pieces with similar color palettes.
“I’m pulling colors I see in the environment,” Jensen said.
Jensen was raised on a farm in Nebraska before moving to Kansas, so she had been around prairies for her entire life, but Frasier was raised in the suburbs in Texas.
“I didn’t know what the prairie was until I moved to Kansas and started to understand the importance of it,” Frasier said.
Both hope they can show how the different pieces of the natural world, from grasses to flowers to other creatures, live together on the prairie. Frasier said she hopes the relationship between these is reflected in the relationship between her work and Jensen’s.
“What I find compelling about the prairie is that it relies on diversity and interconnectedness in this wild place,” Frasier said.
Frasier said one of her favorite compliments she’s ever received on her paintings was when someone told her it felt “wild.”
“It’s great because that’s what I see in the prairie,” Frasier said.
Jensen said this contrasts with what one can see in the outdoors in other parts of Kansas and the region, which may have been tamed by agriculture.
“If you go and look at a cornfield, it’s been tilled, it’s organized,” Jensen said. “When you’re out on the prairie, it’s different. There’s lots of symbiosis.”
Although the weaving techniques in Jensen’s baskets require a more careful approach in order to maintain their shape, she said she still wants to create art instead of a strictly practical piece. Both artists work in media with a long tradition —basket weaving and landscape painting — but they try to do it in their own way.
“It still has to be a viable structure,” Jensen said. “I want to play around with technique. I’m not creating a functional basket but creating an object to enjoy as art.”
Jensen wove four baskets to represent each of the four seasons, using fibers with colors associated with each season, such as green in summer, orange in fall and blue in winter.
Frasier said she likes to work on large canvases because it places the viewer more directly in the environment she is portraying.
She said she hopes that by seeing art about the prairie, people can experience a side of Kansas they might not have considered before.
“A lot of people only experience Kansas driving through on I-70, instead of being moved by its vitality,” Frasier said.
“Prairie Perspectives” will be on display at the MAC until Aug. 10.