Peggy Cyphers “Prairie Conversation” 2014
“Prairie Conversation” is a project began during an art residency at the Grin City Collective in Grinnell, Iowa, in the Spring of 2013. Wanting to do a series of prints about the diversity and beauty of the hundreds of plant species found in Iowa’s prairie, I began researching the specimens at Grinnell College’s herbarium. This archive has a huge collection of plants, some dating back to the 1800’s. The concern over the demise of the prairie has been well documented and many of the original 300 plant species known are now extinct. To date only .1% of the American prairie still exists, usually in pioneer cemeteries, near railroads or conservation plots.
Studying the fragile beauty of the preserved plants, I was amazed at the artistry of the thousands of plant layouts. I am a collaborator with these early generations of naturalists, both professional and amateur, who collected plants at specific locations and times long ago. I am altering, reinterpreting and renaming the works of early environmentalist to educate and preserve what’s left of this sacred natural heritage.
The American Prairie is one of the richest and complex ecosystems on earth whose beginnings date back 12,000 years to the end of the ice age. Today, destructive corporate agriculture has not only destroyed almost all of the prairie but also polluted the water systems with toxic chemical run off. It is my intention that this project “Prairie Conversation” encourages an appreciation of the biodiversity of the prairie as we come to terms with the tragedy of loss of our national heritage due to over consumption.