Prairie Forward

 
Folded Canvas

Folded Canvas

Near Augusta, Montana : : 2017

Near Augusta, Montana : : 2017

Sage : : Badlands, South Dakota

Sage : : Badlands, South Dakota

I have a neatly folded pile of heavy cotton canvas and one day soon I plan to unfold it and attach it to a wall. I won’t need to build a frame because I’ll gesso it on the wall, paint it on the wall and display it in the same way. I’ll need to re-arrange my current studio space to accommodate it, or I may have to rent the corner of a warehouse somewhere else. Once it’s unfolded, it’ll be close to nine feet by thirty-six feet. I purchased the bulk canvas in 2008 and used half of it to assemble four stretched canvases. Each canvas was 60” x 60”. I have a lot of material left over and that’s what I’ll use to paint something big. I imagine it’ll incorporate some view of eastern Montana, one of the Badlands, the summer fields of Iowa, or another enormous horizon from my youth—one that’s peppered with sagebrush, grazing cattle, or collapsing cutbanks. It’s usually silly though to predict what a painting will actually become, but I like thinking about it.

I imagine a space that I can walk into—that I can lose myself in, my spatial reference points completely in question because my eyes and my head can’t sync things up. It might shift what other people think they’re seeing too—a quiet suspension of disbelief. The space might feel like the countless road trips I’ve taken during the day and at night; in the hot dust of August and in the crisp nights of winter. At some point on every trip I pull the vehicle over to the side of the road, or into an adjacent field and stay awhile. If it’s dark, I stare up into the sky and lose myself in a blanket of stars. Sometimes in the daylight, I’ll open the tailgate and sit with my lunch, or dinner. If the cooler is still cold, I might have the food Jeenee prepared special along with my thermos of hot coffee. If I’m almost in the middle of nowhere, I’ll hear crickets, grasshoppers and meadowlarks surround me. It’s a full prairie immersion. It’s like swimming in it. If I’m lucky, once in awhile in open country near Circle, Ringling, or Augusta, the air will be still with the heavy smell of sage and sweet grass, and it will overtake me while I just drift there; just drifting.

© C. Davidson

Riding Shotgun

 

Riding Shotgun :: 2011

I was driving east somewhere in North Dakota the day after Christmas. It was dark and cold, the road was snow packed and I was in a near blizzard when my ex-sister-in-law called. I'd just finished an outburst of talking to myself. I said hello and asked if she would hold on for just a minute. I muted my phone, trembled a little and then gathered myself. I couldn't believe it was her of all people. I got back on and she asked me how I was, where I was and said that she'd been wanting to call me since my mothers funeral two months earlier. Her call felt a little like divine intervention. We caught up some, she listened to my grief, gave me sage advice, but mostly just listened which was exactly what I needed at that precise instant.

I was driving back from Montana after spending a couple of days during the holidays with a few members of my family while my wife and daughter were in Florida to be with her mom and brother. I drove to Missoula and purposely avoided my hometown, specifically my mom and dad's house. I knew it would feel like a crypt. It would be uncomfortable and still, like a funeral home filled with flowers that my mom wouldn't have liked. Maybe certain music playing that had no real connection to her. The music being more about the people who chose it than it being for my mom—like some Scottish dirge. She wasn't even Scottish. It might feel like that, so I drove to Missoula instead where most of my siblings lived. We went out to dinner and I visited a few nephews and nieces the following day before heading home. The drive was therapy. The drive is always therapy. Seeing family was good, but the drive is what began to heal me—it’s the mulling, the thinking through of things, the re-mulling, the talking out loud, the looking and the picture taking that centers me—breaking things down and lining them back up. Maybe a little like the Cat Stevens song On the Road to Find Out. After my my sister-in-law and I said goodbye, I drove out of the abrupt edge of the storm where the road was dry and I took the photograph Riding Shotgun, with my mom sitting next to me.

© C. Davidson