On a recent visit to South Dakota’s State Art Museum, I enjoyed an exhibit featuring many works from their permanent collection. One of those works is my favorite painting of all time: The Prairie is My Garden by Harvey Dunn.
My first sight of this painting was in a private home setting of the president of SDSU when delivering a photograph to him and his wife.
I then saw her a few years ago as part of the All Dunn exhibit, a completed collection of Harvey Dunn’s paintings.
This third time of standing before The Prairie is My Garden I noticed something I missed before.
I noticed her scissors.
Perhaps it’s because on pasture hikes I never carry scissors and have gathered wildflowers from the earth.
Perhaps it’s because I recently created a birthday bouquet for a friend and that time, I brought garden clippers.
As I stood there and looked at her sense of calm and confidence, I noticed her scissors. They stood out to me as never before.
Why did she bring them along instead of pulling the flowers from the earth as I have done?
She was intentionally creating a bouquet. She took care in collecting the flowers by snipping them to leave the roots.
In the 1880s was a pair of scissors valuable? Would a woman have more than one pair in her home? Growing up with a mother who likes to sew, I learned that using fabric scissors on paper would dull their blades and make it more difficult to cut a clean line in fabric. Would that happen with use on plants as well?
Was this something the woman in this painting would have considered as she took her prized scissors to the open landscape to create something of beauty for her small prairie dwelling?
As I consider this painting now, I see her in a different light. I see her as a woman of intentional purpose seeking beauty and creating with what she had in hand, her scissors.