My study of the tallgrass prairie in Kansas started when I moved to Manhattan in 2013. There, I found many people who know the beauty and power of the Flint Hills. But there are many more people who only have a superficial knowledge of Kansas – based on an I-70 drive-through/fly-over kind of experience. To an ignorant eye, the prairie can mistakenly be characterized by what it lacks-- mountains and trees, for example. I quickly found eyes for the abundance of life and energy in the prairie. Its buzzing textures, dense fibers, and complex systems of interdependence all inspire me, and exploring these truths has become my study and my passion.
Formally, I create work all along the spectrum of realism and abstraction. Conceptually, I am most interested in the tangible elements of a landscape that point to the beyond. In an essay from 1976, pioneering land artist Robert Smithson wrote, “We cannot take a one-sided view of the landscape.” He argued that a particular place, “cannot be seen as a ‘thing in itself’, but rather a process of ongoing relationships existing on a physical region.” This attitude is a driving force for my art practice. My works are visual products of a sustained drawing process, born of my ongoing relationship with the prairie. Working from memories of moments and experiences, I build up marks that reference both visual forms and non-visual characteristics such as movement and time. I resist characteristics of traditional landscape representation by the obscuring of obvious points of orientation such as a horizon, and by seeking a different kind of source material-imagery in my work develops from a montage of moments distilled by memory and perception, not from a single scene bounded by a frame. With many sources, these works become freed from time and site. I think of them as fragments of a larger, continuous whole that I am still discovering and learning.
Kelly Yarbough Frasier lives in Manhattan, KS. She received her MFA in Drawing from Kansas State University in 2016. She is also the founder of the Tallgrass Artist Residency, a program that invites artists from the North American prairie region to work and exhibit in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Kelly is from Plano, Texas (a short-grass prairie), but she gives full credit to Kansas for showing her the value and beauty of grasslands.