I am an English woman who has lived in Bemidji for longer than I have lived anywhere else, and yet my sense of identity with a place I call home, has not been Bemidji. My identity has for a long time been tied to the landscape, and in particular English landscape. Recently I have realized that this “home” is no particular part of England, just certain landscapes and certain views which for me have become iconic.
Since 2005 I’ve looked for some sense of home in the local landscape, and found it in the clipped topiary of the Greenwood Cemetery, and from there I made a body of work called “Between Two Lands.” I continued looking for the familiar, a sense of England in my neighborhood, and this time I found it in the morning light amongst long grasses or in a hilltop view. This work became an exhibit at the North Dakota Museum of Art called a Sense of Place. These works are matched pairs, often two views of the same place just feet and minutes apart because it seems to me that in order to gain a sense of place, one should look closely, and look more than once.
In the past year I have expanded these pairs in Lakes to Lakes, and I have traveled back and forth to Cumbria, an area new to me in England, in search of more connections. This ongoing body of work is a collection of typological landscapes, pairing similar environments of lake and wood in Beltrami county, with those in Cumbria, in the North of England. These typologies categorize the familiar: a dock on a lake in the early morning, a woodland path, or the expanse of an open field. They are the quiet and very understated places that many Minnesotans will be familiar with, perhaps to the point of not seeing them anymore. To me these places have also become iconic, and because I see them both in Cumbria and Northern Minnesota, I am drawn to them. They define for me a sense of place, a sense of belonging in both worlds.
In these typological pairings, England and America meld in subtle ways: a similar composition, different light, different weather, different trees. This melding reflects my own slow journey in becoming an American citizen. In March 2011 I became an American citizenship. I became a part of Americas long history of immigrants who have sought for similarities to their native country, looking for familiar climates, similar farmland, to settle. For most, an exact match may not have been found, though many found a permanent echo of their former lives.