By Clara Chaisson
Photographer Terry Evans has been piecing together prairies for more than 40 years.
Terry Evans's Ancient Prairies project<p>Landscape photography was not part of Evans's original plan during her years at the University of Kansas, where she received a BFA in painting. For years the Missouri-born artist drew inspiration from the relationships between people. But a decade after Evans graduated, a friend asked her to capture some images of a virgin prairie not far from Evans's home in Salinas, Kansas. She agreed, and the friendly favor forever changed the trajectory of her career.</p><p>"Suddenly I began to see the ground," <a href="http://www.terryevansphotography.com/project-statements/ancient-prairies" target="_blank">Evans wrote</a> of the experience. "The realization came that I could stand in one spot and look at the ground for at least an hour and still not see everything happening at my feet ... There was a whole cosmology there, and that was fascinating to me."</p><p>The artist's depictions of prairies have traveled far beyond the habitat's natural range in the middle of our continent. Her work has brought the American prairie to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and more.</p>
Terry Evans's Ancient Prairies project
Terry Evans's Ancient Prairies project<p>Evans's interest in humanity's influence on the environment has also led her to industrial landscapes. Working alongside writer Elizabeth Farnsworth earlier this decade, she <a href="http://www.terryevansphotography.com/petcoke-in-chicago" target="_blank">documented activists fighting to ban petcoke</a> on the Southeast Side of Chicago, the city where she now lives and works. But after spending years working on projects such as <em>Petcoke vs. Grassroots</em>, <a href="http://www.terryevansphotography.com/north-dakota-oil-boom" target="_blank"><em>Fractured: North Dakota's Oil Boom</em></a> and <a href="http://www.terryevansphotography.com/steel-work-production" target="_blank"><em>Steel Work</em></a>, Evans said, "I started having this longing to see some undisturbed prairie again . . . Beauty matters for our spirit."</p><p>When she returned to Fent's Prairie, though, she found that something had changed within her. "I was no longer satisfied with making single images," Evans said. "It seemed like there's so much rich information and wisdom in an untouched or restored ecosystem."</p>
Terry Evans's Ancient Prairies project<p>The name of the series, <em>Ancient Prairies, </em>isn't intended to consign its subject matter to the past. "It's not about nostalgia, and they're not a eulogy of something that's gone," Evans said. "Rather, they're a celebration of life that can still inform us. We need these places as an archive of what an undisturbed ecosystem looks like."</p>
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