How to See: A Dialogue Between Landscape and Imagination

A collaboration by Tom Dempster and Molly Noem Fulton

In exhibition at Bates Trimble Gallery, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls South Dakota

"...a series of work expressing what we may not see, but sense, in the land."

- Molly Noem Fulton

Viewing Tom Dempster’s photographic work on paper and canvas, I have painted and drawn with gouache and acrylic marker an expression of what lies beneath the visual senses in a place.

Much of Tom’s work is based on the South Dakota landscape, but all of it in this series embodies the stillness we know well if we’ve spent time on the grasslands and hillsides of South Dakota. This stillness is often referred to in my family as “the silent minute.” Through various connections to land and the encouragement to be outside, we became aware of the silence the landscape provides. Whether the moment simply happens or someone finally insists everyone stop talking, we have come to value stillness and allowing ourselves to listen to the land.

In exhibition at Bates Trimble Gallery, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls South Dakota

This practice was important in the collaboration with Tom. Without it, I had nothing to layer on Tom’s photographic eye. However relying on that small stillness allowed me to view the images anew, painting and drawing into the landscape what is sensed. What I add through paint expresses how stillness connects us to past, to motion, to pattern in the natural world, to the briefest of moments shared with those who’ve gone before us. These are important things to hear, feel and “see” and I would wager, are only available to us when we give ourselves over to a silent minute.

What landscape shares with us in our silence is a connection to our deepest imagination and a very real way of seeing beyond what our eyes make visible.