Weeds & Wildflowers of South Dakota
Artwork by Barbara Sparks
November 5, 2021 – April 10, 2022
Visual Arts Center | Jerstad Gallery
Barbara Sparks' watercolors explore nature's intricate beauty, filling the Jerstad Gallery with bright watercolor portrayals of wildflowers. Her inspiration comes from photos of wildflowers found during her travels and images submitted by her friends and art students. Each recreation accentuates the finest details of these naturally occurring florals. Each flower is geolocated, giving viewers the opportunity to view the exact location of her inspiration via satellite – exploring where the flowers once bloomed and could resurface again at any time. With each piece, Sparks includes the original photo and the historic and medicinal importance to Native tribes.
In 2017, I started the Great Plains Watercolor Society (GPWS) with a group of students at the Center for Active Generations. It’s mission was to encourage people to realize that they, too, could become artists by picking up a brush and observing the world around them. Or not. Just picking up a brush would do, and dipping into color. And putting that color on a piece of paper.
In the following years, the GPWS has become a sophisticated organization with a crack leadership team offering social and educational opportunities to over 100 members in four states as well as Canada.
And then, one day, I started thinking that “maybe there was more.” Maybe there was a way to offer this wonderful awareness of natural color to everyone…people who were not in art groups or classes.
It was a bright day in Harding County, as we drove down highway 20, trying to visit the counties listed in South Dakota Magazine’s article "Distancing in All 66 Counties" article in July/August issue.
And, there it was. It was a common sight in South Dakota, but I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. An explosion of design: symmetry, repetition, variation, radial composition, and color theory--just by the side of the road. In the middle of nowhere. The wild sunflower.
I started looking at other wildflowers, and found myself engaged with unbelievable lines, curves, and shapes. All priceless art—out in the world, for everyone to enjoy, at no cost. These flowers popped up at their own bidding, not caring if anyone was around, or if the viewer had purchased a ticket to an exhibition. Some closed in the rain or cold, some opened in afternoon sunshine. Some have different colors on the inside or the outside. All looked like they had studied in some sophisticated color theory class.
Dody and Boyd Hopkins