In the summer of 2011, my husband and I went on a journey to the heartland of this country in pursuit of his Norwegian heritage. While he was pursuing living descendants of his ancestors, I was immersed in a photographic search for the iconic prairie grain elevators that were constructed of wood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In South Dakota, the rail runs due East-West across the prairie. Every town was situated near the rail, about 10 miles apart, and every town had a grain elevator to which the local farmers would deliver their grain crop by horse and wagon.
The prairie landscape is so flat that the elevators can be seen from a great distance, announcing the location of the next town on the horizon. These historic structures are rapidly disappearing, but I was heartened to see some of the remaining wood elevators being preserved and incorporated into the landscape of the modern rather than being torn down. In these midwestern prairie grain elevators, I found great parallels to the iconic, and also disappearing, log tobacco barns of North Carolina, and the way of life they represented.
Pat is one of 4 featured artists this month (through May 20) at the Hillsborough Gallery of Art. Her work at HGA is primarily turned wood, but she also has a photographic presence. This is the photo essay she just installed.
See Pat’s work at our Orange County Artists Guild website.