Our installation uses four sunbonnets to contrast ecological and agricultural interpretations of homesteading, while narrating the role of women homesteaders in establishing the primacy of agriculture on the Great Plains. We digitally designed and printed textiles with contemporary images of ecology-biological, geographic, geological, chemical and human-to demonstrate our ability to visualize prairie ecology as a mosaic. We derived hand-printed patterns superimposed over the mosaics from historical images of agricultural implements-fences, plows and cow-bones/fertilizer-to represent homesteaders stitching together their claims while unraveling the prairie mosaic. The bonnet form highlights women’s part in this activity. Historically, the prairie was linked to women through the descriptors such as virgin, barren and fertile. The bonnet proetcted women from the elements and thus identified them as vulnerable. Women homesteaders, like the priarie, often suffered because of agricultural expansion-claimed by their husbands, fenced off from their origins, and risking illness and death from childbirth. However, by linking the bonnet form to images of farm implements, we link the creative labor of women to the creative labor of men. In this work of art by women descended from homesteaders, women bear equally the laurels for the birth of agriculture and the burden of its birth pains.

Hustvedt, G. and Melis, R. (2007) Fence, Plow, Fertilize: Exploring the Transformation of Prairie and Family Life. American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences Juried Showcase and Exhibition, June 21-24, 2007, Reno, NV.

Hustvedt, G. and Melis, R. (2007) Claim, Fence, Plow, Fertilize: Relating women homesteaders to ecology and agriculture through collaborative art. Presented at Center for Great Plains Studies’ 33rd Interdisciplinary Symposium; Lincoln, NE, May, 2007.

Hustvedt, G. and Melis, R. (2006) Fence, Plow, Fertilize. Collaborative works in “Hope Clutch” (Rachel Melis, curator) Isaac Lincoln Gallery, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD, Sep 11-Oct 27, 2006



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