Linden and birch, maple and aspen. These are the future residents of the agrarian plains. Like immigrants transported to a foreign land they are setting their roots deep, establishing themselves in the landscape in order to make a new life.
A Gift of Good Land is a collection of carbon-based photograms cataloguing the predominate fauna thriving on a former homestead situated in the rural Red River Valley of North Dakota. This series is part of a larger objective to visualize and record aspects of the new ecology evolving on the Northern Plains since the establishment of the Homestead Act of 1862, an historic moment marking a significant shift in the prairie ecology. A transformation from a landscape dominated by hearty grassland to one of row crops and shelter belts.
As settlers immigrated to this region toward the end of the nineteenth century they set their roots, establishing homesteads surrounded by shelter belts to protect them from the harsh, northerly winds. They tapped into the rich, carbon filled soil of the grasslands, producing a bounty of row crops to feed the growing nation. Efficiency measures and mechanization led to monocultures and a reduction in biodiversity. This resulted in a collapse of the natural ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie.
But ecologies are not fixed in time and vegetation is in constant flux. The small homestead acres and shelter belts dotting the landscape have become biodiverse islands in a sea of monocultures - micro ecosystems and incubators of future inhabitants of the wild agrarian prairie.
These unique photograms are carbon prints, a nineteenth century process in which a sensitized gelatin tissue, pigmented with Sumi ink, is placed in contact with plant material and exposed to sunlight. The resulting images are manifestations of the light transmitting through the translucent parts of the plant. In this one-to-one process carbon records carbon, painting a picture of the future ecology of the Northern Plains.