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Middle America


30 x 24"

acrylic on canvas

Heller Art, Omaha, NE


We have arrived in a land of straight roads, golden fields, and stories of a young girl named Dorothy. I kiss a seven-foot bodice of the tin man. We are tempted to drive south to Sedan and visit an actual “yellow brick road.” While there is no escaping the wonderful tale of Oz, we soon realize that Kansas has more to offer than accounts of flying monkeys. For instance, the town of Goodland displays a 768 square foot replica of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower painting, on an eighty-foot easel!

We locate a stone, which marks where the Donner family lost their first member in their heroic trip west. In the same area, a shaded creek presents carvings in boulders that remain from Oregon bound travelers, Mormons and California gold seekers. Each had a different motivation, but all were lead by the same “pursuit of happiness.” Rectangles of prairie, surveyed and claimed back in 1862, are now thriving croplands. Porch swings appear on every stoop, waiting to reward their hard working owners for another day of labor. 

While dilapidated silos and deserted mills represent today’s struggle for small town survival, to many the Midwest has long been a source of the American dream. We read of families who set out to claim “free land” with the Homestead Act, and European immigrants who traveled in search of ‘streets of gold.’ The only gold we come across is found in fields of proud sunflowers, but throughout our week, we are reminded of a land filled with opportunity. My thoughts are turned to today, where an entire generation is trained to follow the same path, while expecting different outcomes. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? When does it become okay to stop wishing and risk something great to achieve something greater? We must take hold of those dreams that are all too often overshadowed by society’s expectations.

In Lawrence, Kansas we meet with the only gallery who refuses to sign our project agreement. The exhibit space is beautiful, and the owner means well, so we eventually agree to the option of “selling the painting upon contingency.” To be honest, I am still unclear of what that means, but sometimes it is necessary to be flexible in order to appease all parties. As a gallery owner, he may just prefer using his contract because he is familiar with it. As an artist, I am receiving the same benefits, so I don’t lose either way. Unfortunately, our discussion becomes lengthy, and we find a parking ticket in our windshield upon leaving. I think to myself that this is another unnecessary expense to our already extended budget. I open the envelope and find that we owe a total of two dollars to the town of Lawrence. This may be the cheapest parking ticket that I’ve ever had.