The difference between a wheatfield and the prairie is clear to the scientist and the artist alike. — Wes Jackson
Nearly two years ago I had an encounter that made this quote personally significant. I was explaining to some young, highly educated men from New York that I had recently moved to a place called the Flint Hills, which is also by and large the last remnant of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. There was a spark of recognition in one of the young men: “Prairie. . . isn’t that kind of like a wheat field?”
Diana Werts is one of those artists who sees the hidden complexity and grandeur of the prairie. A native Kansan who studied art at Emporia State University, her oils, acrylics, collages, prints and pastels have been featured in regional and national shows over the last 25 years. In addition to painting, she is a gifted accordion player. While she credits the “grasses, big sky and distant vistas” of the prairie for much of her inspiration, her primary obsession has been native plants. Even her excellent landscapes are largely backdrops for the botanical specimens in the foreground.
Meanwhile, her more abstract plant profiles retain an attentiveness that is worthy of a botanical illustrator. Her latest monotypes and collages move even deeper into abstraction. Having spent years observing these plants and puzzling over how best to translate them onto a two-dimensional plane, Diana has come to scrutinize the plants in terms of form, line, and pattern. The resulting images are less about individual plants and more about the natural laws and processes that have brought them, through countless adaptations, into their present form.
“Native plants have sustained birds, bees, animals and humans for millions of years and, to me, they are modern heroes who have much to show us through their strength and endurance,” says Diana. Observation, curiosity, appreciation and care: these are practices that Diana shares with the scientist and with any who seek to understand their own places better.
— Matt Regier