Friday, March 9, 2012

Twisted, Tangled Forests of Cast Iron

"Crosstimbers", 46" x 56", colored pencil on acrylic ground
by Fran Hardy copyright

Washington Irving described the Crosstimbers as 'vexations of flesh and spirit' and said 'they struggled through forests of cast iron' when he had to traverse them in 1832. They once covered 30,000 square miles of Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas but are now primarily confined to two preserves. One is the Keystone Ancient Forest, founded by the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy and managed by the parks department of Sand Springs, about fifteen minutes from Tulsa. 
The Crosstimbers can also be found in the ravines of the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
This painting that I did for my series of Oklahoma trees will be part of a group exhibition I am curating at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. It depicts the twisting gnarled oak trees of this forest of post oak and cedar. Many are 300 to 500 years old but because of the harsh windy and drought-stricken climate they have endured do not look that old or massive.  The exhibition September 15-October 28, 2012 will also contain the work of Oklahoma artists that we interviewed in our documentary "Earth Chronicles Project, The Artists's Process: Oklahoma". I will tell you more about the artists included in the exhibition in upcoming blog posts. 

Detail of "Crosstimbers" by Fran Hardy copyright
Usually creatures and spirits emerge unbidden as I draw but in this piece I intentionally added a few. I want to start studying more about how mythology has been created around trees in various cultures and to also write my own inspired by my paintings of trees. We will see what emerges from this..........

How wikipedia describes it now versus the vast forest it once was:
The term Cross Timbers is used to describe a strip of land in the United States that runs from southeastern Kansas across Central Oklahoma to Central Texas.[1] Made up of a mix of prairiesavanna, and woodland,[2][3] it forms part of the boundary between the more heavily forested eastern country and the almost treeless Great Plains,[2][3][4] and also marks the western habitat limit of manymammals and insects.[2]
No major metropolitan areas lie wholly within the Cross Timbers, although roughly the western half of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex does, including the cities of Fort WorthDentonArlington, and Weatherford.[3] The western suburbs of the Tulsa metropolitan area and the northeastern suburbs of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area also lie within this area.[2] The main highways that cross the region are I-35 and I-35W going north to south (although they tend to skirt the Cross Timbers' eastern fringe south of Fort Worth) and I-40 going east to west. Numerous U.S. Highways also cross the area.[2][3]

The tallgrass prairie is an ecosystem native to central North America, with fire as its primary periodic disturbance. In the past, tallgrass prairies covered a large portion of the American Midwest, just east of the Great Plains, and portions of the Canadian Prairies. They flourished in areas with rich loess soils and moderate rainfall of around 760 to 890 mm (30 to 35 in) per year. To the east were thefire-maintained eastern savannas. In the northeast, where fire was infrequent and periodic windthrow represented the main source of disturbance, beech-maple forests dominated. In contrast, shortgrass prairie was typical in the western Great Plains, where rainfall is less frequent and soils are less fertile.

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