Exhibition Dates: Through March 1, 2023
Belmont Prairie Stories
by Dorothy Dvorachek Larsen
This exhibit recounts my process of getting to know the Belmont Prairie. This prairie in Downers Grove differs from many other nature preserves as it is a remnant of uncultivated land. In just a few acres, it contains over
300 species of plants, some of which are uniquely found in undisturbed areas. It offers a view into the older story of here, when Native people and plants thrived. The prairie also helps us to see and to consider how this older story still lives here, in relationship to our modern life.
This series starts with a burn. Early spring of 2022, the park district did a controlled burn, imitating this natural element of a prairie’s life cycle. The photos show the renewed growth after this burn, following several plant species over the course of the spring, summer and fall, April through November of 2022.
I am an artist and art therapist based in Downers Grove. I began regularly visiting Belmont Prairie in 2021. As an artist, I’ve generally painted and worked with mixed media, with a focus on portraiture. However, I found that photography well suited my learning about the prairie plants and how they changed through the seasons. One might consider these images as plant portraits or as the characters of so many intertwined stories. I found myself responding to the prairie with words as well, and these responses are distilled into the poetry that accompanies the photos.
This exhibit is the culmination of an Artist’s Residency in Motherhood, a self-directed practice of art making amid family life that I started in May of 2020. In the midst of the changes of the pandemic, I recommitted myself to consistently making art to ground myself as an individual and a mother. The pandemic also guided me towards this in depth exploration of local beauty at Belmont Prairie. I reached out to fellow Downers Grove artist Heather Chelmecki to help me maintain this practice. I’m excited to exhibit with her here.
Dorothy Dvorachek Larsen resides with her family in Downers Grove and practices as an art therapist with the Center for Creative Arts Therapy. She studied studio art at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and Art Therapy at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Works by Heather Chelmecki
I am a Downers Grove artist and elementary art educator of 12 years. In 2014, I first visited the world of yoga. As my yoga practice deepened, I felt a visceral connection between art making and yoga. Both practices lead you to journey inward, leaving the outerworld for a time and encouraging a connection with the self. I have found that this self-connection is deeply nourishing and fuels an even stronger connection to the life-filled world around me.
As an artist, I have always been drawn to the visual. My eyes take in the artwork of my students, soak up nature, or dart from one image to the next as I scroll through other artists’ work. While practicing yoga, my gaze is drawn inward and I connect with my other senses. The beautiful words of my yoga instructors guide my movement and breath as they enter my ears. A physical awareness is heightened. Art making allows me to integrate and to represent these new experiences. With this exhibit, I invite you to take a visual journey into my yoga inspired art.
This art series was inspired by experience and knowledge I acquired during my Yoga Teacher Training at Prairie Yoga, 2021-2022. I have also included earlier original works, all featuring “budding eyes” that originally represented interactions and have evolved to symbolize the effect of different yoga asanas or poses in this series.
Heather Chelmecki is currently the proud art teacher at LaGrange Highlands Elementary School. She attends yoga classes at Prairie Yoga in Lisle and at Yoga Among Friends in Downers Grove. Heather enjoys teaching artful yoga workshops through Navigating Adolescence and looks forward to sharing her love of yoga and art with future students. She earned her Master of Arts in Art Education from the Art Institute of Chicago and began her teaching career as a Teach For America Corps Member in 2004.