Erin Wiersma

Erin Wiersma

Konza works on paper

"For over a decade I have been making performative drawings and paintings informed by a meditative and ritualist approach.  

My practice focuses on the body’s capacity to absorb and respond to an environment, leading me toward the Flint Hills of Kansas, which is the largest intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Within the Flint Hills, the Konza Prairie is one of the few remaining protected grasslands in the world. At varying intervals, controlled burns are used to replenish and maintain the ecosystem. Using bio-char produced from this tallgrass prairie, I draw with the land, which becomes both the subject matter and medium. Walking the grasslands brought about an awareness of and response to wind, temperature, humidity, geological time, and topography of the landscape." Erin Wiersma 

Fire is a natural force that has shaped grasslands for millennia, and it remains crucial for managing and conserving tallgrass prairie today. Fire also inspires and captivates the human spirit. Can grassland fires also be used to produce art? Erin Wiersma, Associate Professor of Art at Kansas State University, is exploring how recently burned prairie can be used to bridge art and conservation and create a greater public awareness of the land. 

When Wiersma, who is originally from New Jersey, moved to Kansas, she brought her studio outdoors and developed an artistic relationship with the land and the environment. She creates large-scale drawings by direct contact with the charred remains of the prairie following controlled burns. Visually the work results in a drawing that is reminiscent of the expansive prairie and visible growth patterns, while creating dialogue around local conservation efforts and the urgent need for native prairie grasslands. Wiersma recently previewed her work at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the Kansas State University campus as part of the Prairie Studies Initiative program. 

The Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) includes experimental prairies burned at different intervals as part of the Konza LTER program. Wiersma uses KPBS as her studio. She creates her drawings using the charred plant matter and ash left after a prescribed fire, by pulling/rubbing/dragging/lifting paper in recently burned prairie. Creating these works involves many hours on-site, walking the land to develop an awareness of the prairie landscape, and its responses to the wind, temperature, humidity, and changes over geological time. 

Wiersma thinks of KPBS as a time capsule. “When I go out to work in the prairie it is a very ceremonious experience. The whole event is sacred and meditative for me”, she says. “I typically pass through a gated section housing a herd of bison that dwell within these lands and graze. At one time Native Americans thrived on the land alongside great herds of bison. Burning was used as a method to herd the bison to specific areas for hunting, and also to rejuvenate the soil. I cannot be on this land without thinking of the people and animals that live here, both past and present.” Rhodes, J.J. (2018, April 3). After the Burn - Making Art Out of Grassland Fires. Retrieved from 




Born in Somerville, New Jersey US 1982

Lives and works in Manhattan, Kansas

2009 University of Connecticut, M.F.A.
2004 Messiah College, B.A.

Istitutio San Lodovico, Orvieto, Italy

Solo Exhibitions

2019 Mid America Art Alliance, Kansas City MO
2018 Main Gallery at UCM Gallery of Art & Design, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO
2017 Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO
2017 Bottega Chioccia Tsarkova, Orvieto Itay
2017 Dairy Arts Center, Hand-Rudy Gallery, Boulder, CO
2015 Jacqueline B. Charno Gallery, Kansas City Artist Coalition, Kansas City, MO
2015 Clayton Staples Gallery, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS
2015 Tony Hungerford Memorial Gallery, CSM - LaPlata, MD
2014 A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2014 Johnson Gallery, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
2013 Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC
2012 Gallery at Three Rivers, Three Rivers Community College, Norwich, CT
2012 University Gallery, PSU - Pittsburg, KS
2010 Sarah A. Coyne Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
2007 Hampden Gallery, UMASS – Amherst, MA

Select Group Exhibitions

2019 Line | Poetry, Galerie Fenne Wehlau, München
2018 Here and Now, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, KS
2018 Marking Presence, McMahon Gallery, Dairy Arts Center, Boulder, CO
2017 Natural Instincts, The Jewish Art Salon hosted by the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford, CT
2017 100 Works on Paper Benefit, Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, NY
2017 Gathering Differences, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2017 Infrastructure: Land, Mind, Country, AICAD Seminar Gallery, New York Artist Residency Program, Brooklyn, NY
2016 With/drawn: Nancy Morrow & Erin Wiersma, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2016 New Art in Old House, Governors Island, NY
2016 Wish You Were Here, Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, NY
2016 In the Secret Garden, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2015 Line & Space, Martin Museum of Art, Baylor University, Waco, TX
2015 Summer National Juried Exhibition, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA
2015 THE (Un)Fair, NY, NY
2015 Transformed Viewpoints, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2014 Draw, Drawing, Drawn, Vita Art Center, Ventura, CA
2014 Liminal Communities, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2013 New Drawings: Sara Schneckloth & Erin Wiersma, SOHO20 Gallery, NY, NY 2013
2013 A Fine Line: Contemporary Drawing, Claypool-Young Art Gallery, MSU - Morehead, KY
2013 Fragments, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2013 Push on the Surface, Gallery at Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ
2012 The Human Presence, Triangle Gallery, Sinclair Community College, Dayton, OH
2012 Celebrating Kindred Spirits and Strange Bedfellows, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2011 Ephemera, Olive DeLuce Fine Art Gallery, NWMSU - Maryville, MO
2011 Intimacy, ARC Gallery, Chicago, IL
2011 Drawing Discourse Exhibition, S. Tucker Cooke Gallery, UNC – Ashville, NC
2010 MOAK 4-State Regional Exhibition 2010, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO
2010 Drawing in the Expanded Field, Clara Hatton Gallery, CSU - Fort Collins, CO
2009 Wayne and Geraldine Kuhn Gallery, OSU – Marion, OH
2009 Apperceptions, SOHO20 Gallery, NY, NY
2009 Apperceptions, William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs CT
2009 Coast to Coast, Dakshina Chitra Gallery, Chennai India
2008 Coast to Coast, Ruchika’s Art Gallery, Panjim, Goa India

Publications: Blogs | Exhibitions in Print

2018 Jennifer J Rhodes, “After the Burn – Making Art Out of Grassland Fires,” LTER Stories.
2017 Sharon Butler, “Two Coats resident artist Erin Wiersma returns from Kansas,” Two Coats of Paint.
2017 Sarah Handcock, “Drawing in Place,” Seek Magazine. Vol. 7: Issue 2
2017 Butler, Sharon, “Infrastructure at Seminar in DUMBO,” Two Coats of Paint.
2016 INDA 10, Manifest Gallery and Drawing Center.
2015 Sharon Butler, “Quick study: Art bus, Rauschenberg as bad parent, sexism in arts writing, Abelow, Two Coats Residency, Stanley Whitney, Stella retrospective, more.” Two Coats of Paint.
2015 Jacquelyn Gleisner, “Still Points in Erin Wiersma’s Drawings.” Art21 Online Magazine – Sincerity Issue.
2015 Sharon Butler, “Two Coats of Paint Artist Residency Program kicks off this week.” Two Coats of Paint.
2015 Creative Quarterly Magazine, CQ37, 3x3 Publishing, New York, NY.
2014 Studio Visit Magazine, Volume 28. Open Studio Press, Boston, MA.
2014 Danielle Fallon, "Lines and Layers: Erin Wiersma’s ‘The Theory of Line’”, On-Verge, CUE Foundation.
2014 Sharon Butler, "Erin Wiersma: What's Left of Our Lives," Two Coats of Paint.
2014 Marsha Levin-Rojer, “Erin Wiersma: Dynamic Exploration,” (Catalog Essay)
2013 Studio Visit Magazine, Volume 23. Open Studio Press, Boston, MA
2011 Studio Visit Magazine, Volume 13. Open Studio Press, Boston, MA

Select Awards & Residencies

2018 KSU, University Small Research Grant
2017 Two Coats of Paint Residency, Brooklyn, NY
2016 KSU, University Small Research Grant
2015 Two Coats of Paint Residency, Brooklyn, NY
2015 Draw International Residency, Caylus France
2014 [Awarded Best in Show] Draw, Drawing, Drawn, Vita Art Center, Ventura, CA.
2014 KSU, University Small Research Grant
2013 KSU, President’s Academic Excellence Award
2013 Big 12 Faculty Fellowship 2013 – 2014
2011 KSU, Faculty Development Award
2010 KSU, Small Research Grant

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