In these watercolors I tried to envision life around early trading posts in what is now Johnson County, Iowa. The paintings were commissioned to help publicize plans for Remembrance Park, a small area with prairie grasses and wildflowers south of Iowa City, near the historic site of the trading posts. The park will be open to the public for quiet contemplation and enjoyment of the beauty of the land.
The idea for the park was put forward in the new book “Remembrance Park: The Fur Trading Era in Johnson County, Iowa and a Proposal for a Wildflower Park to Contemplate the Origins of the County,” compiled by Marybeth Slonneger. (My paintings are not in the book, but it is well illustrated with photographs.) You can read about the project and the book on the website Remembrance Park — Johnson County, and many more tales of Iowa history on the website Our Iowa Heritage by Remembrance Park Committee member Marty Boller.
Dick Hakes of the Iowa City Press-Citizen wrote a wonderful article about the book, the history, and the park, which Press-Citizen subscribers can read here:
(The story is also currently on the Remembrance Park website here.)
Paintings require research, like a novel does; besides reading, for inspiration I visited two newly-restored cabins in Iowa City’s City Park which were built to replicate the cabins of the era. The City of Iowa City’s YouTube channel has some interesting videos about their restoration:
I imagined the scenes and tried to recreate a typical day of trading. What struck me from the history was how people of different cultures got along peacefully for a time, living side by side, something we could learn from today.