A Little Art On The Prairie

by Kiko Matsing

Red Bicycle Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers Prairie Grass

Follow the typical signs, the hand-painted lines, down prairie roads.
Pass the lone church spire.
Pass the talking wire from where to who knows?
There’s no way to divide the beauty of the sky from the wild western
Where a man could drift, in legendary myth, by roaming over spaces.
The land was free and the price was right.
          ~ from Gold Rush Brides by 10,000 Maniacs

The bike ride south of Race Street takes you directly to Meadowbrook Park, which has preserved 60 acres of native Illinois prairie, now all but mowed down and turned into the endless soybean and corn fields of the Midwest. But here, in this oasis of tall grass, turned golden in the dessicated air, one can still get a sense of the “legendary myth of the wild western plains” that Natalie Merchant evoked in the album Out of Eden. This tenacious enclave of rural land serves as an interesting space for the modernist sculptures that are displayed along its pathways. The ample size of the pieces are dwarfed nonetheless by the vast openness of the terrain. The pastoral setting ostensibly serves as counterpoint to the curated artifice, but is itself ironically, ultimately, also contrived. There is a heightened nostalgia for pure, unadulterated Nature by the presence of decadent bourgeois art in this patch of prairie preserve.

Open Cathedral window with a halo or a crown of thorns.

Pat McDonald

Niantic Brontosaurus feeding on primeval flora.

Michael Dunbar

El-Ahrirah This same artist did Slow and Steady at the Urbana Free Library.

Todd Frahm

Marker Naked WASP woman of the prairie. The turquoise-green of oxidized bronze looks stunning against the gold of dry grass.

Peter Fagan

Folk Art Folk Art
Folk Art Folk Art Folk Art
One of my favorites, these Jazz Age totem poles and talismans. Love the cocked derby hat!

D. Bill
Folk Art

From Night Daddy's Book of Dream Surrealist creature.

Ed Haddaway
From Night Daddy’s Book of Dream

Minimal Response III One of the more comical pieces. Love the red and the hammer heads.

Ed Benavente
Minimal Response III

Fathers & Sons Fun with Keith Haring iconography.

Peter W. Michel
Fathers & Sons

Southern Passage A piece difficult to photograph. It was in a shady corner at the foot of a walk bridge, looking suspiciously scatological.

Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley
Southern Passage

Here and There The piece that most looked like it belonged there.

Michele Goldstron
Here and There

Position #1 The sheen of steel, the precision of lines, contrast with its organic environs.

Ron Gard
Position #1

Prairie Buoy Prairie Buoy Another difficult piece to photograph. I like the reference to the sea in the title, the barnacled texture of the phallic head, the finned tail.

Cecilia Allen
Prairie Buoy

Fluke Fluke Looks very solid and geometri-cally precise, this fluke.

Carl Billingsley

Swift Swift These wings, the title implies, look earthbound and organic. Endlessly photographable with its late afternoon shadow.

Alissa Negila

Molecular Reflection Perhaps it is my being a chemist that makes me blasé about this piece–or that it is really sophomoric, obvious, and dull. Nothing wrong with science inspiring art, done properly. I do like the more inspired ribosomal subunits in glow-in-the-dark colors at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB).

Christiane T. Martens
Molecular Reflection

Striker If Transformer robots were made of concrete…

Derick Malkemus

Tango Looks like a blow-up of some kitsch decor in a 70’s Miami bungalow. ‘Nuff said.

Larry Young

Balencia The perfectly smooth sphere, and the prairie background, saves this piece from being an ordinary pile of concrete rubble.

William Carlson

Hamilton Now this is a pile of rubble.

Barry Tinsley

Yikes Another comical piece. Its levity is counterbalanced by the chunkyness of the metal.

John Adduci

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