Where the Sky Began: In Memory of the Looking Glass Prairie. 2009-2013
The Tallgrass Prairie once covered most of Illinois, but beginning in the 1840’s fell within a generation to the illustrious John Deere-designed steel plow. Today less than 1% remains in the state and in its place an expanse of urban development and industrial farming is found.
Landscape is always a nexus of transformation; clay from the swamplands was fired into bricks which built area homes; indigenous forests were cleared for their lumber; and the names of such past landscapes often find their way into contemporary vernacular via street address and neighborhoods. Successive changes in land are inevitable.
Named after John Madson’s tome on the history of the Midwestern Tallgrass prairie, Where the Sky Began, is an installation which memorializes the once thriving Looking Glass Prairie of St. Clair and Madison counties through the lens of an over century-old-home built on the grounds of where this prairie once thrived. Built in 1903, the home’s construction aligns with the period in which the decline of prairie for agricultural purposes was at its height.
Collected from area homes in demolition, window glass (a material via second nature) was cut and stacked in a replica mimicking the oak floor boards of the house. In concert with natural light, the reflective surface created a conflation of the outdoors and interior space, drawing attention to the vast skies whilst indoors. Sky was significant in relation to memorializing lost prairie as its image and that of the horizon reign both physically in the sea of tall grass and through historical accounts of such.