May 21, 2020 | 3 pm
Join us for a unique opportunity to travel the Kansas River through the eyes, the words, and the paintings of an extraordinary Flint Hills artist, Lisa Grossman.
On March 14, the exhibition PRAIRIE.RIVER | Lisa Grossman and Erin Wiersma opened at The Volland Store Gallery. March 16 the gallery closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit remains out of view of visitors, but it may be seen in its entirety online here.
On Thursday, May 21, Lisa Grossman will be in the gallery to guide you through her river works in person, and she will answer your questions after the tour.
I revel in the lyrical sweep of the Kansas River, particularly an oblique, aerial view of the floodplain stretching to the prairie horizon. Certain sections have an abstract asymmetry that makes it easy to compose a canvas. There’s a rhythm, a cadence of the curvilinear river unfurling across the vast floodplain and bouncing off of ancient bluffs that captivates me. Each section has its own character and the floodplain is written with evidence of ancient meanderings we see today as oxbows, floodplain scrolling, and scars.
The Kaw is the largest prairie-based river system in the world with an enormous watershed that reaches west to Limon, Colorado, and roughly covers the bottom third of Nebraska and top half of Kansas. Sandbars are part of its natural character and I’m impressed by their ongoing transformation and the dramatic differences I see year-to-year, season-to-season, one water event to the next – even minute-to-minute. “You can never step into the same river twice…” the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, and we understand that the river is never the same, but neither are we. It’s a rich subject for me, alive with adventure and discovery.
I’ve had the great opportunity to fly over the Kaw a dozen or so times since 2004 with a couple of pilot friends, gathering thousands of photos in the process. These paintings are based largely on flights in 2017 and 2018, and the dates and locations are recorded on the reverse of each painting. To date, I’ve done three major pieces based on representing the entire 173-mile length of the river and these pieces represent various segments of the Kansas River from Cedar Creek at mile 26.5 to the confluence of the Republican and the Smoky Hill Rivers at Junction City, Kansas.
Using small panels in horizontal rows of sequences allowed me to linger over the unfolding bends and slow down the eye. Although they’re sketchy and spontaneous, essentially miniatures, they reveal more details than I typically include. I let the paintings emerge intuitively, the process dictating how the sequences fell out in a freehand application of paint. It was a discovery process of exploring my photos, maps, and satellite imagery, drawing on decades of paddling the Kaw and exploring sandbars.
I’ve been greatly influenced by my work as a volunteer and board member of Friends of the Kaw, the only non-profit dedicated to protecting and preserving the Kansas River, and my colleagues in the sciences, education, law, water advocacy, etc.
There’s nothing like painting to really see and develop affection for places, and, for me, it was a way to honor the river as a whole, one painting at a time. Every day I drink the Kaw from the tap along with 800,000 other Kansans. Paddling and exploring sandbars is one of my favorite things to do. How can I possibly reciprocate? Every painting is an attempt to give something back––to share my affection for this river and put it on the map. – Lisa Grossman
Lisa Grossman grew up in rural western Pennsylvania and first saw a horizon when she moved to Kansas as a young woman fresh out of art school. She has been painting the prairie ever since, minimal landscapes of rolling hills and big skies. Around 2004 she turned her attention to the Kansas River, the largest prairie-based river system in the world.
Lisa Grossman’s work is exhibited courtesy of Haw Contemporary in Kansas City, Missouri.