Artist Lab Report:
Soil drops and prairie waves

by Amba Klapwijk

 Fluffy cottonwood seeds, silently floating over the water surface. Different colors of soil, revealing something about the place where they belong. Eurasian watermilfoil, curly leaf pond weed, spirogyra.. drifting in the waters of Millers Bay, Okoboji Lake. And sounds of the birds that I never heard before.. 

To name just a few of the things that intrigued me in my first days at Iowa Lakeside lab.

On the very first day I went with the algae class on the boat to collect samples from the Lake. 


The next day I joined the soil class to Mini-wakan State Park where the Archeology class is looking for artifacts. 
Later I got to see different soils through the microscope, what a beauty!

I got the idea to use the soil as paint. Now I am working on a series that uses the different soil colors.

When I told my friends and colleagues back in The Netherlands about my residency here in Iowa; the first thing they would say was, “what, Iowa? That is a land with fields of corn and soy!” 
I was sure Iowa is more than that. At all the breakfasts, lunches and dinners, where you can meet the other residents here at Lakeside, I came to hear a lot about the prairie.
How Iowa used to be prairie for 85 % and how little is left over by now (les then 1 %). And how they now try to restore it.. What a loss it is. 
I went to Caylers Prairie and the Kettlehole, which are closed by, and I walked over the prairie fields on the Lakeside domain, to experience the prairie myself. I still can’t find the best words to describe it..
When I went to Caylers, it was completely silent, only the waves of wind through the grasses.. and some birds here and there..

Since then the prairies kept me. 

Calling for what has ever been, 

the wind, 


rustling grassland, 



is it still possible? after such a while?


from who is this land, the grassland, the prairies, the fields, 

and what can we tell about it?



I started to learn more about prairies by reading in the lovely library, and trying to learn and remember some names for the different grasses and flowers. For the next 1,5 week I will work on a composition for, and hopefully to be performed on, the Prairie…








PS a couple days later I found out that a quite dominant grass on Cayler is the smooth brome. However, this grass is a non native grass brought by agriculture, and doesn’t belong here! It takes space of native prairie grasses as Bluestem grass and Needle grass. I did not know about that when I was there for the first time taking pictures and videos on the prairie.












The artist-in-residence of Amba Klapwijk was supported by the Dekker-Padget Dutch2USA

“Artists and scientists are both asking questions about the world, they’re just doing it in different ways”
Alex Braidwood
Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab Artists-in-Residence Program
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