Several years ago I rescued a remnant of original, unplowed native prairie in Missouri. Since then, I have been on a quest to preserve and protect this precious parcel of land and the creatures that depend upon it.
I immerse myself—learning all that I can about prairies; not just by reading, but by doing… restoring and reconstructing the degraded areas, reintroducing native plants that once grew there. This process involves being in close contact with organic forms found in earth, water, plants and wildlife. I focus on the sensory magic of the unique and rare prairie habitat, and its influence on what I make.
My work reflects my fascination with the overwhelming number of elements that surround me in this natural ecosystem of abundance, and my realization that every event, no matter how small, is vital to the inextricable web of life.
The prairie ecosystem is so rich and diverse—so alive with a riot of color, texture, moving shapes, sounds, and scents! It demands that you take it in with all of your senses. There are always discoveries and surprises.
Walking through a field I am suddenly in the midst of masses of sunflowers as far as I can see. They dance in waves, covered with thousands of tiny winged insects busily mating and munching. All fragile moving parts, making patterns and repetitions, encircling me and resonating collectively in a low hum... I am mesmerized. In a few days they will be gone, but where? By then, another prairie flower will burst open in multitudes, taking the sunflowers’ place, and bringing other insects that have evolved with it.
I turn around. Scores of tree swallows are dipping and diving aerodynamically over the pond at high speed, perfectly choreographed, tracing sweeping arched lines in the sky, then making concentric ripples in the water as they kiss the pond surface. Constantly twittering to each other, their joyful pace never abates. They have no fear. They never collide.
Such natural happenings suggest to me rhythms, patterns and cycles. Ethereal wing patterns of a newly metamorphosed dragonfly, the low pulsating drone of bullfrogs at night, mathematically arranged seed heads unfolding—I observe and anticipate these occurrences—how they gradually emerge, change and repeat as if according to plan, season after season, year after year.
And so, back in my studio, I impose my own ordering of marks on cloth.
These repetitive visual marks are recordings of what I see, hear and touch. For example, I can express a sound I hear with a line or a shape. And cloth, as my medium, manifests the natural, tactile environment from which it came.
Outdoors, I am conscious of millions of elements being coded—they fit together—and it is this orchestration that energizes me. A harmony of flight patterns, a cacophony of calls and cries at dawn, the simple repetitive drumbeat of an incessant insect. My work is in response to nature's rhythm.
Susan Lordi Marker