Kirsten Furlong: 2020 Artist in Residence
In this interview, Great Plains Art Museum Director and Curator Ashley Hussman talks with artist Kirsten Furlong about her artwork and exhibition "Over the Edge of the World," which is currently on display at the museum.
Furlong's exhibition explores the artist's interpretation of the natural history and current grassland ecology in the Great Plains and beyond through drawings, monotypes, and paintings. Bird species, past and present, insects, animals, and plants are depicted along with mark making inspired by the lines and textures of the prairie.
Special thanks to Margaret Huettl for providing a video land acknowledgement for this episode. To listen to the podcast version of this, visit: https://anchor.fm/gp-lectures
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[00:00:00.000]Welcome to Great Plains: Anywhere.
[00:00:02.250]A Paul A. Olson lecture
[00:00:03.720]from the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:00:05.350]at the university of Nebraska.
[00:00:07.600]Today, we're joined by Kirsten Furlong,
[00:00:10.040]the Great Plains Art Museum's,
[00:00:11.530]2020 Elizabeth Rubendall Artist in Residence.
[00:00:16.980]On behalf of the Center for great Plains Studies,
[00:00:19.120]I would like to begin by acknowledging
[00:00:21.270]that the University of Nebraska is a land grant institution
[00:00:24.980]with campuses and programs on the past, present
[00:00:27.345]and future homelands of the Pawnee Ponca, Otoe-Missouria,
[00:00:31.810]Omaha, Lakota, Dakota, Arapaho, Cheyenne,
[00:00:36.040]and Kaw peoples as well as the relocated Ho-Chunk Iowa
[00:00:40.220]and Sac and Fox peoples.
[00:00:42.180]Please take a moment to consider the legacies
[00:00:44.410]of more than 150 years of displacement, violence,
[00:00:48.790]settlement and survival that bring us here today.
[00:00:52.230]This acknowledgement and the centering of indigenous peoples
[00:00:55.240]is a start as we move forward together
[00:00:57.740]for the next 150 years.
[00:01:00.900]Hi, I'm Katie Nieland.
[00:01:01.930]I'm your assistant director
[00:01:03.040]for the Center for Great Plains Studies.
[00:01:05.930]I'm Ashley Hussman, director and curator
[00:01:08.670]of the Great Plains Art Museum
[00:01:10.130]at the Center for Great Plain Studies.
[00:01:12.110]I'm Kirsten Furlong, a visual artist.
[00:01:15.250]Currently has an expedition at the Great Plains Art Museum.
[00:01:19.400]Today's conversation is with artists and curator
[00:01:22.270]or artist and educator, Kirsten Furlong.
[00:01:24.843]Kirsten is a Great Plains Art museum's
[00:01:27.110]current Elizabeth Rubendall Artist in Residence.
[00:01:30.060]Since its inception in 2006,
[00:01:32.260]the Elizabeth Rubendall Foundation has generously funded
[00:01:35.100]an Artist in Residence program
[00:01:36.750]at the Great Plains Art Museum.
[00:01:38.520]Giving visitors and school groups
[00:01:40.100]the unique opportunity to observe an artist in action.
[00:01:43.690]During their residency, the artist creates
[00:01:45.610]a new work of art that becomes part
[00:01:47.750]of the museum's permanent collection.
[00:01:50.601]Furlong's residency was originally scheduled
[00:01:52.690]for spring and summer 2020,
[00:01:54.970]but had to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
[00:01:57.930]We hope to have her here in Lincoln in spring 2021.
[00:02:01.460]In the meantime, her exhibition, Over the Edge of the World
[00:02:04.350]is on view at the museum through November 21st 2020.
[00:02:09.400]Kirsten Furlong was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
[00:02:11.970]and currently lives and works in Boise, Idaho.
[00:02:14.870]She received a BFA from the university of Nebraska Omaha
[00:02:18.360]and an MFA from Boise State University.
[00:02:21.590]Furlong is currently the director of the Blue Galleries
[00:02:24.230]at the Center for Visual Arts at Boise State University
[00:02:27.440]and a lecturer in the university's
[00:02:29.170]Department of Art Design and Visual Studies.
[00:02:32.360]In those roles, she has curated and organized
[00:02:34.850]over a hundred exhibitions and taught
[00:02:37.100]the Capstone Exhibition course
[00:02:38.690]for undergraduate art students.
[00:02:40.370]Furlong's work has been shown nationally
[00:02:43.000]and internationally in solo and group exhibitions.
[00:02:46.210]And she has had artists residencies in Alaska, Oregon,
[00:02:49.450]Wyoming, Nevada, Kansas, and Michigan.
[00:02:53.180]Kirsten, thank you for talking with us today.
[00:02:57.200]I'd like to start off with just asking you,
[00:02:59.470]if you can tell us a little bit about your background
[00:03:01.860]as an artist and how you decided
[00:03:03.800]to pursue a career as an artist.
[00:03:06.700]Yeah, I was always interested in the visual arts,
[00:03:09.480]but I definitely didn't see it as a career
[00:03:13.500]until I actually went to college
[00:03:16.780]when I was deciding what major to have I thought, well,
[00:03:20.970]I really like art and a career path
[00:03:23.420]could be being a teacher.
[00:03:24.860]So I signed up initially at the University of Nebraska
[00:03:28.760]as an art education major 'cause I thought that made sense.
[00:03:33.580]And it really was the moment that I went to college
[00:03:37.970]and realized that, you know,
[00:03:41.140]being an artist in and of itself is a career
[00:03:47.050]and a lifelong occupation.
[00:03:49.950]And because I was able to immediately come in contact
[00:03:54.650]with people that were artists,
[00:03:56.040]even though they were art teachers,
[00:03:57.450]I really saw them as artists.
[00:03:59.468]And so I think within my first semester,
[00:04:02.530]I changed my major to just studio art.
[00:04:05.850]And so that's really how it started.
[00:04:09.380]And then obviously, after finishing
[00:04:11.617]my bachelor of fine arts,
[00:04:15.340]I worked at a gallery for a couple of years,
[00:04:17.470]a commercial gallery, which I think ultimately ended up,
[00:04:22.580]you know, really altering my career path
[00:04:24.770]and then went on to get the master's of fine arts.
[00:04:29.733]And how do you currently balance your career as an artist
[00:04:33.290]with your work as an educator?
[00:04:37.910]Well, I think the best way for me
[00:04:40.150]to balance everything that I do
[00:04:43.750]is that I try not to separate everything out
[00:04:47.580]into these very separate entities.
[00:04:50.330]To me, they're all very interconnected.
[00:04:52.850]So even though I do work as a gallery director
[00:04:57.950]and with a very small staff of one.
[00:05:00.013]So even within being the gallery director,
[00:05:02.570]I have a lot of different roles.
[00:05:04.870]And then I teach a class
[00:05:06.050]within the Department of Art Design and Visual Studies.
[00:05:09.130]And then I have my work as an artist,
[00:05:12.740]but I just see all of those things
[00:05:16.220]as being totally interconnected
[00:05:18.090]and really try not to separate them.
[00:05:22.360]And that really one just informs the other.
[00:05:25.750]And you know, they all sort of seamlessly
[00:05:27.960]are in this wheel of things that are happening all the time
[00:05:33.140]that I think are so connected
[00:05:35.053]and that's what's worked for me,
[00:05:39.690]is just having them all together.
[00:05:44.060]So your work mostly focuses on the natural world
[00:05:47.360]and in particular, the relationship
[00:05:48.770]between humans and nature.
[00:05:51.390]Can you tell us more about why that interests you
[00:05:54.360]and how did you decide to make that
[00:05:55.900]a central theme of your work?
[00:05:58.160]Kind of strangely, my interest in the natural world
[00:06:01.070]came in kind of a weird way and kind of late in life,
[00:06:06.140]even though it was always interested in birds
[00:06:09.900]and different animals that I would see.
[00:06:13.200]I grew up primarily in cities,
[00:06:14.840]so I didn't have this like kind of natural relationship
[00:06:18.930]to the natural world.
[00:06:22.140]And I actually, and I think this informs my work a lot.
[00:06:24.780]I came to my greatest interest,
[00:06:28.020]particularly in birds, through images.
[00:06:31.360]So as I mentioned earlier, I worked after college
[00:06:37.160]in a commercial gallery
[00:06:39.000]and it was for a nature photographer.
[00:06:42.350]And so I became really good at identifying birds
[00:06:45.050]because I was constantly like
[00:06:48.510]looking at all these photographs,
[00:06:49.950]finding things for clients, looking for different things.
[00:06:52.320]And so, and then I sort of took that outside.
[00:06:55.890]Like I started realizing like,
[00:06:57.047]Oh, I can identify all these birds.
[00:06:58.988]I looked at so many photographs of them
[00:07:02.360]and really through that work,
[00:07:04.090]got introduced to a lot of the ecology of birds
[00:07:11.420]in the Great Plains.
[00:07:13.720]So that was kind of a strange way to come to being,
[00:07:19.010]having this interest in being an artist and naturalist
[00:07:23.720]that sort of interested in this.
[00:07:26.660]But I think it really says a lot
[00:07:28.820]of what my work is about.
[00:07:30.450]So in graduate school, I really investigated what it means,
[00:07:37.320]since in graduate school, you're expected
[00:07:40.360]to sort of tie your work to more theoretical things.
[00:07:43.187]And so I became interested in how ideas
[00:07:48.060]about the natural world are formed.
[00:07:50.000]In particular by images and images that artists may,
[00:07:53.050]and I also was questioning for myself,
[00:07:55.740]like, what does it mean for me as an artist
[00:07:58.150]to make images about the natural world?
[00:07:59.980]And I was always very interested in investigating that.
[00:08:03.640]Early on in grad school,
[00:08:07.560]I read an essay by EH Ambirk, The Truth in the Stereotype.
[00:08:13.900]And, you know, if you're familiar with that,
[00:08:17.860]like one of the key things that he talked about
[00:08:21.220]that really stood out to me is he talks about Durer,
[00:08:25.948]German artist of Albert Durer, Rhinoceros.
[00:08:29.440]And how this image of a rhinoceros
[00:08:31.100]made by medieval European artist
[00:08:33.441]who had never seen a rhinoceros.
[00:08:36.390]So it wasn't an accurate image,
[00:08:38.410]but it also affected like how people made images
[00:08:41.610]even after people had seen rhinoceros.
[00:08:43.920]Like it affected like how people made images of rhinos
[00:08:47.330]for like centuries.
[00:08:49.460]And I was so fascinated by that.
[00:08:51.670]And so really began investigating
[00:08:54.800]places like natural history museums field guides,
[00:08:59.890]like all these different places where our ideas
[00:09:02.260]about the natural world are presented to us
[00:09:06.150]in a very particular way.
[00:09:07.940]And what does that mean for our actual feelings
[00:09:12.780]about the natural world.
[00:09:14.870]And so, and then by the end of grad school,
[00:09:18.520]I was really looking at like,
[00:09:20.490]then what's the intersection
[00:09:21.730]of where these two things come together?
[00:09:23.300]Your maybe own experience,
[00:09:24.780]firsthand experience in the natural world,
[00:09:26.940]and then your learned experiences
[00:09:29.263]about images of the natural world.
[00:09:32.910]And then where does that take you?
[00:09:34.410]And that's really been where the investigation
[00:09:36.870]of my work has continued.
[00:09:40.670]And your products also explore the effects
[00:09:43.080]of climate change on the natural world.
[00:09:45.870]So can you talk a little bit about how that theme
[00:09:48.370]is incorporated into your work?
[00:09:50.110]And is there anything specific that you hope these works
[00:09:53.930]convey to the viewer about climate change?
[00:09:58.110]Yeah, so I, there was a study that came out in 2019
[00:10:03.980]that was basically how the United States and Canada
[00:10:07.340]had lost 3 billion birds since 1970.
[00:10:11.490]And that, just reading about that study
[00:10:15.140]had a huge effect on me 'cause that's essentially
[00:10:17.210]like my lifetime.
[00:10:18.280]And I thought in my lifetime, like we've lost.
[00:10:21.790]I think it was, it's like a quarter of birds.
[00:10:25.850]And that was so disturbing and astounding to me to learn.
[00:10:33.390]Because if we keep on this trajectory, that could mean that,
[00:10:37.060]three more generations, is there gonna be any birds left?
[00:10:40.050]And a lot of that had to do with climate change.
[00:10:44.970]Not all of it, but a great part of it.
[00:10:48.340]And I think, my greatest interest in that
[00:10:51.540]is just that birds, how they react to their ecosystems
[00:10:58.360]and the effects on them are very much
[00:11:00.540]like the effects on people.
[00:11:02.350]So, birds are literally like the canaries in our coal mine,
[00:11:06.980]like what what's happening to them
[00:11:08.880]is gonna happen to us as well.
[00:11:14.800]So I think any, any time you can call attention to that.
[00:11:20.073]And that kind of also played along with some of my interests
[00:11:23.610]of looking at historical images of birds and you know.
[00:11:28.560]Especially from the 19th century in America,
[00:11:32.730]when the first kind of wave of birds
[00:11:36.410]that started to become extinct in the United States.
[00:11:41.180]So yeah, it's really just about seeing what happens
[00:11:45.520]to the birds and knowing
[00:11:46.353]that that's also gonna happen to us.
[00:11:48.560]So I think that's important.
[00:11:50.690]And particularly the Grasslands,
[00:11:54.510]one thing that came out of that study as well
[00:11:56.470]is that the birds that had the most profound effects
[00:12:01.270]were birds of the Grassland areas.
[00:12:04.450]And so you kinda touched on this,
[00:12:06.470]but my next question is really about
[00:12:08.100]what sources of inspiration you draw upon
[00:12:10.600]when you're creating your work,
[00:12:11.910]whether it's natural world or art history.
[00:12:15.230]Can you talk a little bit more about that?
[00:12:18.040]Yeah, it's definitely both.
[00:12:22.390]You know, and I mentioned that I've done a lot
[00:12:26.400]of artists residencies over the years
[00:12:28.450]and predominantly, the residencies are in places
[00:12:32.570]that I wouldn't normally probably go
[00:12:35.950]without that opportunity to have a space
[00:12:40.627]and a place to do research.
[00:12:43.090]And a lot of them are in different parts of the country
[00:12:47.160]where being immersed in that culture and in that ecosystem,
[00:12:53.520]and being able to see,
[00:12:55.343]not only just what's happening to the birds there,
[00:12:58.280]but just how culturally,
[00:12:59.660]like how people are dealing with the issue.
[00:13:04.540]So that's been a big inspiration for,
[00:13:10.200]for my work and in particular,
[00:13:13.690]some of the residencies have been on private land,
[00:13:17.930]some are on public lands,
[00:13:20.350]like national parks for instance,
[00:13:22.520]A Denali National Park was a place that I was lucky enough
[00:13:26.640]to do a residency almost 10 years ago now.
[00:13:29.540]But so having that variety of perspective of what's going on
[00:13:34.394]in different places and how it's affecting different people
[00:13:41.700]has really given me a lot of source material for my work.
[00:13:48.790]And kind of to follow up on that when you look
[00:13:50.968]for inspiration from art history,
[00:13:56.240]or maybe some art historical inspiration or illustrations,
[00:13:59.410]where do you find that material?
[00:14:07.990]I've always been interested in visiting
[00:14:10.230]natural history museums, and even just, you know,
[00:14:13.160]I've always been really fascinated
[00:14:15.010]by old biology textbooks, old field guide.
[00:14:19.150]looking at the images and also reading the texts
[00:14:21.187]and really trying to read between the lines.
[00:14:23.700]Sometimes you learn more about the people
[00:14:26.320]who wrote the books or made the illustrations,
[00:14:29.190]and that's always been something really fascinating to me
[00:14:32.830]is sort of understanding like who these people were
[00:14:35.950]and how that affected why they are making
[00:14:38.380]the images that they're making.
[00:14:42.710]And I think, you know, as a visual artist,
[00:14:45.250]making art about the natural world in this moment,
[00:14:50.820]you're really indebted to what,
[00:14:54.270]how other people are telling you the story.
[00:14:56.250]I mean, certainly you can go out and do field work,
[00:14:59.890]but there's so much other visual information
[00:15:02.270]available to you that you can't really not see.
[00:15:06.125]So, always having that conversation about like,
[00:15:10.490]why am I depicting this in a certain way?
[00:15:12.460]Like, what have I seen before that looks like this
[00:15:14.890]and understanding that always when I make images.
[00:15:19.930]And there's a lot of artists
[00:15:21.114]like someone like John James Audubon.
[00:15:25.620]I've always really been interested in his work.
[00:15:27.950]And it's been really interesting lately,
[00:15:29.900]all the information that sort of come out
[00:15:31.800]about him as a person that a lot of artists
[00:15:34.740]and other people have been looking at.
[00:15:38.276]So that's just one example of an artist
[00:15:39.950]that I'm really interested in.
[00:15:43.070]So you work in a wide variety of media,
[00:15:46.020]including painting, drawing, making collage,
[00:15:48.545]and you've also created some public art
[00:15:51.025]and installation pieces.
[00:15:53.040]Is there a particular, medium you're most drawn to
[00:15:55.780]and how do you decide what you'll use
[00:15:57.875]for a particular project?
[00:16:02.350]Yeah, my background is in painting
[00:16:05.210]and that's what I studied as an undergrad
[00:16:07.570]and really, you know, kind of focused on,
[00:16:10.952]when I went to grad school,
[00:16:12.640]I started doing a lot more printmaking.
[00:16:16.670]And what I really settled on, I think,
[00:16:20.820]I guess what I would call a primary media is works on paper.
[00:16:25.880]And they're really varied in terms of,
[00:16:30.200]I refer to them as drawing, but within a drawing,
[00:16:33.210]there's like a paint media, there's print media,
[00:16:38.590]there's a lot of drawing.
[00:16:42.260]But I love to explore other materials.
[00:16:44.940]And I think sometimes, the ideas that you're conveying
[00:16:48.940]really demand exploring different materials.
[00:16:52.890]So, I've worked in wood or in other materials
[00:17:00.460]and the public art projects are really wonderful for me
[00:17:06.940]because as an artist who primarily works out of the studio,
[00:17:13.190]I tend to work alone a lot of the time.
[00:17:17.100]Which is different than my teaching life.
[00:17:19.494]I'm always working with groups and working collaboratively,
[00:17:24.405]and working, in the galleries, obviously,
[00:17:26.700]I'm working with visitors and with my department.
[00:17:33.040]So the public art projects then also kind of bring you out
[00:17:37.026]into this, having this totally different audience,
[00:17:41.580]and often also being able to explore different materials
[00:17:46.110]that you wouldn't normally do in studios.
[00:17:48.130]So for instance, I had an opportunity
[00:17:51.450]with the City of Boise to design a utility hole cover.
[00:17:58.740]And, you know, I didn't have to fabricate it for one,
[00:18:04.750]'cause obviously it's like infrastructure
[00:18:06.490]and it's, you know, cast iron.
[00:18:09.160]So it's a material that I just have
[00:18:10.610]no experience working with.
[00:18:13.090]But having that experience, working with multiple layers
[00:18:17.070]of different people that were working on the project,
[00:18:20.550]having the experience of seeing something
[00:18:23.590]that I would normally create in 2D way
[00:18:26.170]being cast into this 3D.
[00:18:28.520]And obviously it's a project that will far outlast
[00:18:31.340]any of the works on paper that I've ever done,
[00:18:33.703]'cause it will be, it'll last a really long time
[00:18:37.399]and it'll be part of the city infrastructure
[00:18:39.086]for a really long time, so that's exciting.
[00:18:43.440]So you use a lot of pattern and repetition in your work,
[00:18:47.080]and you've noted that you quote,
[00:18:49.330]use mark making to express empathy, loss, and longing.
[00:18:53.630]Can you expand on that and talk about how process
[00:18:57.030]plays a role in your work?
[00:18:58.660]Yeah, so I think in the simplest terms,
[00:19:01.330]like just for myself, drawing and the act of mark making
[00:19:06.830]has a meditative quality of a kind of calming quality.
[00:19:16.230]Which I think it does for a lot of artists,
[00:19:19.159]when things are going well.
[00:19:20.670]Or even non artists who are making things.
[00:19:24.560]So just that idea of mark making and making something
[00:19:30.790]without, so literally explaining something,
[00:19:36.220]is interesting to me, if it is pattern
[00:19:39.290]and it has been proven that even just looking at images
[00:19:46.680]from the natural world, like fractals, for instance,
[00:19:49.310]can actually like help calm your system.
[00:19:54.900]For all humans.
[00:19:56.130]So I think there's something there.
[00:20:00.570]But I think, yeah, I mean, part of it for me is just,
[00:20:05.890]you know, I don't necessarily feel compelled as an artist
[00:20:09.030]to completely reproduce exactly what I see
[00:20:14.077]like in a field of grass or in the tree rings
[00:20:19.230]of a tree or something like that.
[00:20:24.230]But I think taking inspiration from that
[00:20:26.480]and taking inspiration in those patterns
[00:20:28.739]and taking a really close reading and close looking,
[00:20:34.530]I mean, that's one of the reasons why
[00:20:37.650]the great Plains grassland region is so interesting to me.
[00:20:41.940]It's not about like the big expanse of mountains,
[00:20:46.250]for instance, like we have here in Idaho
[00:20:48.050]or the really odd inspiring, you know look at, you know,
[00:20:53.760]at a landscape.
[00:20:54.730]But when I'm in the grasslands,
[00:20:59.520]it's about looking at small things,
[00:21:03.470]but also understanding that, things that are really small,
[00:21:06.340]like Breslin bird for instance, has a huge consequence.
[00:21:13.420]And so I'm interested in that kind of,
[00:21:18.150]that sort of deep study of my very small details
[00:21:23.970]and how that can be translated,
[00:21:25.700]not in a way of like trying to duplicate exactly
[00:21:30.660]what something looks like
[00:21:31.620]'Cause I think there's just other technologies that do that
[00:21:33.930]so well now like a camera.
[00:21:35.060]It's like, as an artist,
[00:21:37.660]I don't feel compelled to do that,
[00:21:40.230]but I like to be inspired by it and use it
[00:21:43.170]as a way of like deeply thinking about something
[00:21:45.990]and hoping that the viewer can do that as well
[00:21:48.400]when they look at the work.
[00:21:51.150]That's great, yeah.
[00:21:52.330]So let's talk a little bit about the exhibition here
[00:21:55.940]at the Great Plains Art Museum
[00:21:57.870]called Over the Edge of the Eorld.
[00:21:59.740]So can you tell us about how you came up with the title
[00:22:03.080]for that show?
[00:22:04.550]And can you talk a little bit about the two artworks
[00:22:07.750]that share the title?
[00:22:09.540]Yes, so I stole the title from Willa Cather. (laughs)
[00:22:15.600]because it's words from one of her books.
[00:22:19.040]And so I lifted it from her, but you know, again,
[00:22:24.350]being inspired by her description of the Great Plains
[00:22:30.280]and the feeling of, you know, being in that ecosystem
[00:22:37.560]and it describes something about how,
[00:22:41.350]similar to how I feel about the work
[00:22:44.570]that's about the Great Plains and how my process works.
[00:22:49.740]And yeah, the two pieces that are named are monoprints.
[00:22:57.180]So I think they're the only two pieces in the show
[00:23:00.820]that are purely printmaking and they both are abstract.
[00:23:09.110]So they're, they're non-representational images.
[00:23:12.281]Whereas a lot of the other works kind of go in between,
[00:23:15.160]you know, representational imagery and more mark-making.
[00:23:20.190]And, to me, they very much embodied that feeling
[00:23:26.840]of kind of getting lost or actually,
[00:23:30.510]being on a place that you could describe
[00:23:32.210]as being on the edge of the world.
[00:23:34.370]For instance, looking into the night sky,
[00:23:37.350]which one of them kind of abstractly references
[00:23:43.307]and the other one is a more linear pattern
[00:23:45.880]that again, could remind you of something
[00:23:49.130]like a topographical map, but also something like tree rings
[00:23:53.930]or other sort of natural patterns.
[00:23:56.020]So I actually made those and just a couple months
[00:24:02.870]before the show opened, they might've been
[00:24:05.740]the ones kind of closest to when the show opened
[00:24:09.170]that I completed.
[00:24:12.320]And I sort of liked that reference to that feeling
[00:24:18.518]of that sort of total expansiveness,
[00:24:22.370]but also like the tiny detail
[00:24:25.936]and that it's kind of that idea
[00:24:27.280]that I'm trying to convey in those works.
[00:24:29.780]Yeah, they're definitely a great combination
[00:24:31.918]of those two ideas.
[00:24:33.740]And for our audience who might not know,
[00:24:35.820]could you explain what an a monoprint is?
[00:24:40.953]So a monoprint is a printmaking method
[00:24:45.570]where you only pull one unique print.
[00:24:49.300]And so it's very much like painting except that you're,
[00:24:54.330]instead of painting directly onto a canvas
[00:24:56.570]or a piece of wood, you're painting onto a matrix.
[00:25:01.940]And in this case it was a piece of plexiglass.
[00:25:07.500]And then you lay the piece of paper onto the matrix,
[00:25:11.180]the plexiglass, and run it through the press.
[00:25:13.530]So basically you're taking an impression of a painting.
[00:25:17.968]So, those two images were made by actually rolling out ink
[00:25:24.810]like you would if you were printmaking.
[00:25:27.500]So I'm using a brayer and I rolled out
[00:25:30.100]a solid black layer of ink.
[00:25:33.980]And then in the one that looks kind of like a sky
[00:25:36.950]and you can tell it's almost like a dripping,
[00:25:40.730]I took a solvent and I actually was just dripping
[00:25:46.030]little tiny drips of the solvent into the ink.
[00:25:49.660]And so it was creating these diffused little marks
[00:25:53.290]where the ink was dispersing.
[00:25:55.650]And then I laid the piece of paper over it
[00:25:58.980]and ran it through the press.
[00:26:00.963]And then the other piece again,
[00:26:04.740]rolled the black ink over the surface.
[00:26:07.310]And then I actually took a tool to essentially draw
[00:26:11.000]into the ink.
[00:26:11.980]So the tool was just taking away a little bit of the ink
[00:26:15.740]and leaving a linear mark
[00:26:17.862]where you can see the paper showing through.
[00:26:21.550]So very much like drawing and painting,
[00:26:25.180]except you're using a printmaking experience.
[00:26:28.768]And yeah, and I printed both of those
[00:26:31.900]at a place called Crow's Shadow Institute for the Arts,
[00:26:34.950]which is over in Oregon.
[00:26:36.410]It's amazing printmaking facility.
[00:26:40.770]And they work a lot with native American artists
[00:26:46.750]and actually it's located on the Umatilla reservation.
[00:26:50.770]And so I was lucky to be able to go there
[00:26:53.400]and actually made some prints for a fundraising effort.
[00:26:56.550]And then those were some of the other prints
[00:26:57.782]that I made while I was there.
[00:27:01.233]It's always good to hear about process
[00:27:03.630]and how things are made so, yeah.
[00:27:06.260]So what about the great Plains interested and influenced you
[00:27:10.170]when you selected works from your preexisting
[00:27:13.090]body of work for the show, but also made new pieces?
[00:27:16.460]And you've talked about this a little bit,
[00:27:17.930]but I think I wanna hear a little bit more
[00:27:19.730]about what you were thinking.
[00:27:22.200]I guess, the first thing was the year, let's see.
[00:27:27.810]The year before I was invited to do the show
[00:27:31.410]at the Great Plains Art Museum,
[00:27:32.524]I had done a residency in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
[00:27:38.580]And it was my first time exploring that area.
[00:27:43.150]And so there was some similarities
[00:27:46.103]to things I had experienced growing up in Nebraska,
[00:27:51.740]but also like a lot of differences,
[00:27:53.660]'cause it's such a unique ecosystem
[00:27:56.060]and interesting place.
[00:27:59.470]And so I had made a few pieces there
[00:28:03.950]that were like the prairie chicken, for instance.
[00:28:09.400]The prairie chicken imagery.
[00:28:11.623]And I had actually, we didn't get to do the workshop,
[00:28:16.010]but hopefully I'll get to do it later.
[00:28:18.880]We had planned a workshop for the residency
[00:28:21.990]in the spring and the summer about kite making.
[00:28:26.230]And I had explored a project that I had actually started
[00:28:29.498]at another residency on the desert,
[00:28:32.420]but I sort of adapted it for,
[00:28:35.140]and I thought it was the perfect project to do in Kansas
[00:28:38.540]and the Great Plains.
[00:28:40.040]And I had actually adapted it to make a piece
[00:28:43.270]about the prairie chicken.
[00:28:45.655]Because I went to, when I was doing that residency,
[00:28:49.390]I visited the National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
[00:28:53.830]That's in the Flint Hills region there.
[00:28:57.060]And all I really wanted out of that trip
[00:29:00.400]was to see a prairie chicken.
[00:29:02.390]I really was like, I'm going there
[00:29:04.940]and I'm gonna see a prairie chicken.
[00:29:06.230]So I was taking the bus tour and the man
[00:29:09.460]who'd been driving this bus tour for like 40 years
[00:29:11.930]or something, I'm like, okay, this is he's,
[00:29:15.010]he knows where they are.
[00:29:16.530]And so of course immediately I was like, all right,
[00:29:18.890]where were the prairie chickens?
[00:29:20.310]And he's like, Oh, I haven't seen a Prairie chicken
[00:29:21.710]in like 20 years.
[00:29:23.570]And I was devastated.
[00:29:24.980]I was like, what?
[00:29:27.630]Like, that was my whole reason for being there.
[00:29:30.990]And I was just devastated that, Oh my gosh, like,
[00:29:33.073]this is the home of the prairie chicken.
[00:29:35.227]And this person who's in this place daily
[00:29:39.870]and knows where to find things is looking for things.
[00:29:43.500]And so I went back to the studio at the residency
[00:29:48.680]and made a kite with an image of a prairie chicken.
[00:29:54.028]And I thought I would fly.
[00:29:57.680]I know there's no direct correlation,
[00:29:59.001]but I thought I would fly the prairie chicken kite
[00:30:02.330]as a way of like, thinking about the prairie chicken
[00:30:04.310]and observing it in the habitat.
[00:30:09.440]And then also just as a way of making other people
[00:30:13.790]aware of it, like this should be here like this,
[00:30:16.520]this bird should be here and why isn't it.
[00:30:19.170]And again, kind of calling attention to a species
[00:30:22.630]that's declining and has really particular needs
[00:30:25.250]in terms of a habitat.
[00:30:28.620]So that was one.
[00:30:33.130]And yeah, and I did create some work
[00:30:38.060]that was after the invitation came from Ashley,
[00:30:41.680]that was particular.
[00:30:43.310]So, to the Great Plains.
[00:30:46.630]So it was a mix of looking at past ideas
[00:30:51.510]and even some of the works that were made previous.
[00:30:55.960]And I wasn't maybe specifically thinking
[00:30:58.520]about the Great Plains, they were still about
[00:31:02.228]the effects on the natural world in different ecosystems.
[00:31:05.240]So I still felt they were appropriate for the show
[00:31:07.640]and for the body of work that I put together
[00:31:10.210]for the exhibition.
[00:31:13.050]So maybe we could talk more specifically
[00:31:15.200]about a few of the pieces in the show
[00:31:17.209]that you would like to highlight or tell us more about.
[00:31:21.340]Just whatever you you'd like to focus on.
[00:31:26.510]One of the pieces that I thought would be interesting
[00:31:29.890]to talk about, 'cause it was one of the pieces
[00:31:32.280]that I created really for the exhibition
[00:31:40.550]is the image with the Carolina parakeets.
[00:31:45.531]And also because it pulls together
[00:31:47.840]a lot of the ideas that I've already talked about
[00:31:50.850]in terms of how I'm getting ideas put together for artwork.
[00:31:58.810]So I had read, I think,
[00:32:04.910]I actually think like in 2017, there was a scientist
[00:32:09.400]who redrew the historic range of the Carolina parakeet.
[00:32:16.250]And I just happened to be reading an article,
[00:32:18.660]I think probably an Audubon magazine or something like that
[00:32:22.180]about after the scientist had did all this research
[00:32:27.010]and redrew the historic region of the Carolina parakeet.
[00:32:35.080]I realized that it came like all the way
[00:32:37.430]into the Great Plains region.
[00:32:38.950]So kind of South Eastern, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
[00:32:44.840]And, you know, it was like,
[00:32:48.640]an area that I thought like how amazing and how strange
[00:32:53.070]that at one time, we had parakeets
[00:32:55.870]lying around in Nebraska.
[00:32:57.850]You definitely wouldn't think of a parakeet,
[00:33:00.320]seeing a parakeet as a wild bird in Nebraska.
[00:33:04.450]So I would just was really fascinated by that.
[00:33:08.080]And also the, you know, a lot of the emphasis of his study
[00:33:12.860]was we can look at birds that have gone extinct.
[00:33:17.360]So the Carolina parakeet went extinct
[00:33:20.635]sometime around the turn of the last century.
[00:33:24.650]And try to understand like what were the different qualities
[00:33:29.359]of this bird that perhaps led to it going extinct.
[00:33:35.830]And so he talks about, a little bit about how,
[00:33:40.880]that even though the range seems kind of large,
[00:33:42.760]'cause they were really everywhere from the East coast
[00:33:44.880]all the way over to the Great Plains
[00:33:46.610]that it was what he found, it was much more centralized
[00:33:50.370]and smaller and there was really like
[00:33:53.040]two different subspecies of the bird.
[00:33:55.860]One that was more in the Southeast
[00:33:57.860]where you might think there would be parakeets.
[00:33:59.570]And then this one that was more
[00:34:00.780]in the center of the country.
[00:34:03.040]And because they had a more limited habitat,
[00:34:05.250]that probably was one of the things
[00:34:07.930]that led to them becoming extinct.
[00:34:10.770]So layered on top of that and being interested in that
[00:34:15.591]and sort of filing that whole city away in my brain
[00:34:20.030]was the fact that I've always been like obsessed
[00:34:24.090]with John James Audubon's painting
[00:34:28.050]of the Carolina parakeets.
[00:34:29.963]Because it's just so stunningly beautiful and weird
[00:34:34.600]like John James Audubon is.
[00:34:36.950]And layered on top of that, is that at some point,
[00:34:40.930]I had read Audubon's description of the Carolina parakeet,
[00:34:46.500]which if you read it, it's like so fascinating
[00:34:49.500]because essentially he's talking about the painting itself
[00:34:53.160]is like of a bunch of Carolina parakeets
[00:34:55.370]and they're all in this Cocklebur Bush
[00:34:58.630]and they're eating the cockleburs.
[00:34:59.660]So he's describing about how they eat Cocklebur,
[00:35:02.280]but then he's describing how they really ferociously
[00:35:05.600]eat anything, especially like farmer's crops.
[00:35:08.400]So he's like talking about how they'll devastate.
[00:35:12.519]And so inevitably then he starts talking about how farmers
[00:35:15.560]go out and kill them by the hundreds
[00:35:17.937]because they they're just so many of them
[00:35:21.080]and you could just go out and start shooting them
[00:35:24.058]and how he had actually taken some of these birds
[00:35:29.790]that had been shot by farmers and use them as the specimens
[00:35:33.180]for his painting, for the birds he was painting.
[00:35:37.170]So you have this narrative and this painting
[00:35:40.250]that is essentially describing like one of the reasons
[00:35:44.090]why they're gone.
[00:35:47.610]And I've always really been fascinated by Audubon.
[00:35:50.730]I mean, not just because, you know,
[00:35:52.270]the paintings are amazing, but just as a person.
[00:35:56.704]There's a lot of, and I think the scholars
[00:36:01.190]are kind of divided on this,
[00:36:02.680]but there's a lot of scholarship around him
[00:36:06.720]about his background as being biracial.
[00:36:11.270]And I'm biracial also.
[00:36:13.620]And so I think that's always like made me
[00:36:16.970]kind of more interested in him
[00:36:19.780]because that was just fascinating.
[00:36:22.320]And I sort of, you know, feel this like kinship,
[00:36:26.210]but also, it's not really clear if he, you know,
[00:36:34.970]kind of denied his own identity.
[00:36:38.090]And then more recently, there's been more research coming in
[00:36:47.500]that he actually, the Audubon society kind of came out
[00:36:50.600]more recently with this information that Audubon,
[00:36:55.300]like might've been a slave owner himself,
[00:36:58.500]which then layers this whole other layer of like you know.
[00:37:03.389]Wow what if he was like a passing mixed
[00:37:09.474]African-American person who also owned slaves,
[00:37:12.160]which layers this whole other layer of narrative
[00:37:15.350]and fascination around him.
[00:37:20.240]And also like, then, you know,
[00:37:22.346]how do you think of him as an artist?
[00:37:27.940]You know, this artist that you think is like so amazing,
[00:37:32.376]when you start learning and a lot of artists
[00:37:35.260]are kind of grappling with that.
[00:37:37.630]'Cause a lot of artists look to other historical artists.
[00:37:40.020]So it's like, how do you grapple with like,
[00:37:42.640]an artist that you really admire?
[00:37:44.250]Like if they did like kind of horrible things?
[00:37:49.600]So anyway, all this is sort of layered onto each other.
[00:37:52.200]And so the artwork is an image and all of the silhouettes
[00:38:01.110]of the Carolina parakeet that are in the drawing
[00:38:04.030]are really like direct quotations
[00:38:06.384]from the John James Audubon Carolina parakeet.
[00:38:11.940]And one of the amazing things about the painting
[00:38:13.740]is like one of the parakeets
[00:38:15.810]looks like it's looking right at you.
[00:38:19.160]Which is kind of unusual for like a natural history picture.
[00:38:22.000]It would look with like this bird
[00:38:24.240]and it's very funny, you know, like it looks like the birds,
[00:38:28.310]like, hey, and so I've always had this weird
[00:38:31.340]like feeling about that painting,
[00:38:33.349]like Ottawa perhaps knew that watching the slaughter
[00:38:38.670]that maybe these birds were not gonna survive
[00:38:40.690]or even if he didn't like, it's just so fascinating now.
[00:38:43.408]And what does that mean for me as an artist now?
[00:38:46.560]Like what are birds that I'm making images of, you know,
[00:38:50.060]in another a hundred years,
[00:38:51.450]like no longer gonna be around.
[00:38:55.520]So most of the images are just silhouette
[00:38:57.800]so that, there's this tie to the Audubon picture
[00:39:04.107]and sort of thinking through Carolina parakeets
[00:39:07.570]and them being in the Great Plains.
[00:39:09.729]But also there's one, one of the parakeets' faces
[00:39:16.780]I've articulated in the drawing.
[00:39:19.790]And it's the one that's looking out at the viewer.
[00:39:22.427]That's great background on that.
[00:39:24.506]Really complex and interesting piece
[00:39:26.965]when you see it in person,
[00:39:28.490]but also then to hear your inspiration
[00:39:31.750]and what you're thinking about is really great.
[00:39:35.690]So I hope everyone can,
[00:39:37.400]well we'll share an image of it,
[00:39:38.530]but also I hope everyone can come and see it in person
[00:39:41.560]while the show is still on view.
[00:39:43.530]So I think as kind of a final question,
[00:39:47.101]you've had residencies in a number of other locations
[00:39:51.070]across country, which you've talked about
[00:39:52.960]a little bit in this interview.
[00:39:54.570]And what have you learned from these experiences
[00:39:57.780]and what are you hoping to learn from our residency here
[00:40:00.759]at the Great Plains Art Museum?
[00:40:03.300]Yeah, like I said earlier,
[00:40:05.170]a lot of the residencies that I have been to,
[00:40:08.070]it's really been about immersing myself
[00:40:11.280]in a particular ecosystem and just being able to study it
[00:40:14.990]and be there firsthand.
[00:40:18.010]And, but they've been a lot about having the time and space
[00:40:24.090]in the studio, like to myself to do this work
[00:40:27.050]and to do the explorations.
[00:40:30.160]So I've always wanted to do a residency in a museum
[00:40:36.270]because of this other major interests that I have
[00:40:39.703]in my work of how not just natural history scholarship
[00:40:45.293]or art museums create ideas about nature,
[00:40:48.620]but how perhaps art museums.
[00:40:50.640]And I think the great Plains Study Center is doing that.
[00:41:00.220]Like, I mean, that's what they're doing
[00:41:02.500]because they're looking not only
[00:41:03.820]at the sort of natural history of, you know,
[00:41:07.390]things in the Great Plains,
[00:41:08.770]but also the cultural things that are happening.
[00:41:12.230]And so to be able to,
[00:41:15.520]so I've really always been interested in potentially doing
[00:41:19.962]a residency at a museum.
[00:41:23.600]So, so I'm really excited for that.
[00:41:26.270]And just being able to have access
[00:41:31.140]to a few different things.
[00:41:32.140]One is a collection like seeing what other artworks
[00:41:37.040]are on display or that are in a museum collection
[00:41:40.790]and what that means to be an artist in residence
[00:41:44.200]working in that space.
[00:41:47.760]But also just the opportunity to interact with people
[00:41:51.340]who are coming to a museum.
[00:41:53.540]That's a really different thing about this residency
[00:41:56.730]than a lot of residencies are about, you know,
[00:41:58.980]you going and being alone.
[00:42:01.250]Maybe there's a few other artists around, but you know,
[00:42:03.460]it's really about, and maybe you might even give
[00:42:06.300]like one public talk, but other than that,
[00:42:08.917]you're mostly kind of isolated from other people.
[00:42:13.770]But being there and interacting with people
[00:42:18.403]that are visiting and getting that feedback
[00:42:22.210]about your work too.
[00:42:23.380]I mean, since the exhibition
[00:42:25.521]and the residency happened together,
[00:42:30.350]be interesting to talk to people about their,
[00:42:33.815]'cause often artists don't get that direct kind of feedback
[00:42:38.040]and interaction about like how people think about their work
[00:42:40.780]when they're looking at it.
[00:42:43.080]Which there's an opportunity for that
[00:42:44.869]in this residency as well.
[00:42:46.556]So, so yeah, so I'm really looking forward to that and yeah,
[00:42:51.970]it's great to see that more arts institutions like museums
[00:42:56.580]are doing residencies now.
[00:42:58.200]'Cause I do think it's important and it just a great way.
[00:43:04.149]Especially because of the interdisciplinarity
[00:43:07.060]at the Great Plains, like to bring artists
[00:43:10.470]into that discussion.
[00:43:14.703]And we're hopeful that we can have a safe visit
[00:43:16.900]for you in spring and have you here at the museum.
[00:43:21.760]So as we're kind of wrapping things up,
[00:43:24.390]where can people find you online or on social media?
[00:43:29.543]So I have a website that's just kirstenfurlong.com.
[00:43:33.290]That's easy to find.
[00:43:34.500]On Instagram, it's Kirsten_furlong.
[00:43:39.300]So I often post work there as well.
[00:43:41.440]So those would be the two easiest ways to find me.
[00:43:46.315]And also at my work at the university, boisestate.edu,
[00:43:53.270]the Blue Galleries.
[00:43:57.740]Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
[00:44:00.610]Yeah, thank you, it's been great.
[00:44:02.830]We'd like to thank Kirsten Furlong
[00:44:04.580]for talking with us today.
[00:44:06.410]Find all of our short Great Plains talks and interviews
[00:44:09.600]as videos and podcasts at go.unl.edu/gplectures.
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