The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs

Kelly Yarbrough – Autumn 2016


October 1 – December 11, Opening Reception on October 1, 3 pm – 5pm

“I have always wandered outside to seek meaning in place.  But, when I moved to Manhattan, Kansas three years ago, I expected to be underwhelmed.  The horizon seemed simple and obvious, the grasses monotonous.  These things are true-from a distance.  But up close is another story.  The prairie defies easy appreciation; to know it requires intimate and sustained engagement.”

Kelly Yarbrough’s recent work shows ample evidence of engaging the prairie in just such a way.  To many, the prairie is synonymous with “grass.” But the prairie is an ancient and complex ecosystem made up of hundreds of different plant species: grasses as well as sedges, reeds, shrubs, wildflowers and other herbaceous plants-to say nothing of  the myriad of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other living and nonliving things.

Yarbrough’s attentive eye penetrates deep into the prairie’s many secrets.  Her drawings show us a glimpse of the prairie’s complexity and mystery.  But she does not dutifully present to us a representation populated with a handful of identifiable species.  This, in a way, does not detract from the realism of the images.  Her seemingly endless layers of color, line and form simultaneously read as naturalistic detail and abstraction.

Says Yarbrough, “These works are visual products of a sustained drawing process, born of my relationship with the prairie.  Working from memories of moments and experiences, I build up marks that reference both visual forms and non-visual characteristics like movement and time. . . imagery develops from a montage of moments distilled by memory, not from a single scene bounded by a frame.”

By obscuring the viewer’s own orientation, Yarbrough pulls us out of our comfortable position as outside observers looking in and plunges us headlong into the prairie itself.  Looking deeply into these images is like being sucked into a vortex where we begin to sense a potentially uncomfortable truth: the natural world is not something outside of and apart from us but rather the very thread of our existence–a thread that may be woven or unraveled.

Kelly Yarbrough received her M.F.A. from Kansas State University in 2016.  She organized the Tallgrass Artist Residency Program in partnership with the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and Matfield Green.  The resulting work can be seen at The Bank Art Space in Matfield Green starting October 1.


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