Iron Road by Suzanne Kite. Photographed by RYAN PARKER

Round Up: Tinworks Art in Bozeman, Montana Premiers Invisible Prairie Exhibition

Tinworks Art’s new place-based multimedia art exhibition, Invisible Prairie, offers a unique opportunity to connect to the poetry, fragility, and mystery of America’s grasslands. The exhibit explores the sensory experience of the prairie, providing an intimate and thoughtful experience that encourages meditation, contemplation, and close attention to the place we call home. Invisible Prairie includes work by A.K. Burns, Abby Flanagan, Suzanne Kite, Tracy Linder, Julie Ann Nagle, Layli Long Soldier, Laurel Sparks, and Jeff Rice, and has been organized by Melissa Ragain, curator, author, and associate professor of art history at Montana State University.

The Northern Great Plains contain critical and often overlooked ecosystems defined by large swaths of mixed- and short-grass prairies that are maintained by grazing animals like elk, cattle, and bison. Prairie accounts for nearly two-thirds of Montana’s landmass — making it a regional linchpin for sequestering carbon, keeping soils healthy, and preventing erosion. Through sculpture, video, painting, and audio works, the exhibition explores these natural processes, the experience of living in a landscape with few visible variations, and ethical ways of relating to the land and other living things.

A unifying thread in Invisible Prairie is the use of sound and language as forms of artistic expression. Visitors can connect to one another through the communal experience of prairie soundscapes, music, poetry, and oral history. Kite’s installation examines Lakota epistemology (the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion) through the narrative of her ancestor’s escape from the Wounded Knee massacre. Rice’s composition uses recordings from his project, the Acoustic Atlas sound archive, to attune the visitor to the rich sonic world of grasslands. Nagle presents new phosphorescent paintings in which the smallest of the prairie’s inhabitants play hide-and-seek with the viewer. The words of Long Soldier compel the reader to look at the way personal and official language structures impact lived reality on the Plains.

Through stories of land, people, and objects left behind; a region defined by wind, erosion, and never-ending sky; and an openness to the grasslands’ unique ways of speaking, Invisible Prairie sheds light on the past, present, and future of this complex region. 

The exhibition occupies several of the industrial buildings that make up Tinworks Art’s campus at 719 N. Ida Ave. in Bozeman. Invisible Prairie is free and open to the public through October 14.

Tinworks Art is a nonprofit organization working to enrich the cultural and social fabric of greater Bozeman by supporting inclusive, immersive contemporary art experiences for artists and audiences in non-traditional spaces. The organization seeks to inspire rich conversations and community-building beyond the walls of the exhibition space.

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