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Depicting the Great American Dust Bowl of the 1930's in six separate paintings that overlap and merge into one fully connected work, each painting shows the phases and devastation of the effects of the cycle of Panarchy, intertwined into one continuous work. The great American Buffalo was exploited for its fur, meat and horns. By removing the buffalo from the Great Plains of North American and introducing cattle and farming into that area, the ranchers and settlers of the United States set off an unprecedented sequence of events that wrecked havoc and ruin from sea to shining sea.
Phase 1: Exploitation.
Buffalo grass kept the soil from eroding - in 1931, severe drought hit the plains, As the crops died, "black blizzards" began, dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed lands began to blow across the plains, eventually spreading as far as the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Phase 2: Release.
1934: The "Yearbook of Agriculture" for 1934 announced, "Approximately 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land have essentially been destroyed for crop production... 100 million acres now in crops have lost all or most of the topsoil; 125 million acres of land now in crops are rapidly losing topsoil..."
April 1935: congress declares soil erosion "a national menace" in an act establishing the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture (formerly the Soil Erosion Service in the US Department of Interior). Under the direction of Hugh H. Bennett, the SCS will develop extensive conservation programs that retain topsoil and prevent irreparable damage to the land. Farming techniques such as strip cropping, terracing, crop rotation, contour plowing, and cover crops are advocated. Farmers are paid to practice soil-conserving farming techniques.
Phase 3: Re-organization.
December 1935: At a meeting in Pueblo, Colorado, experts estimate that 850,000,000 tons of topsoil has blown off the Southern Plains during the course of the year, and that if the drought continues, the total area affected would increase from 4,360,000 acres by the spring of 1936. C.H.Wilson of the Resettlement Administration proposes buying up 2,250,000 acres and retiring it from cultivation.
Phase 5: Conservation.
1938: The extensive work re-plowing the land into furrows, planting trees in shelter-belts, and other conservation methods has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil blowing. However, the drought continues.
1939: In the fall, the rain comes, finally bringing an end to the drought. Durin ghte next few years, with the coming of World War II, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the Great Plains once again become golden with wheat.
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