Thursday, August 5, 2010

Red Elevator

Here is the companion piece to yesterday's posting.  A semi-abstract painting of a prairie icon,  the grain elevator.  Red Elevator was painted to pay homage to the quickly disappearing wooden grain elevator, a farming symbol, which has its roots in the early 1800s.  By the 1920s most companies were building the standard, or traditional, 30 to 40,000 bushel elevator with a gable-roofed cupola.  Usually more than 80 feet tall they dominated the prairie skyline for years... you might call them prairie skyscrapers.

Unfortunately they  are disappearing, with only an odd one here and there preserved for future generations to see.  The wood from the actual grain bins has become a much sought after recyclable material by numerous wood working artisans.  Crafted into beautiful boxes, the soft pulpy areas of wood were almost completely worn away over time by the grain seed, leaving the harder tree rings.  The organic undulations and patterns left behind have created a visual testament to a way of life for many settlers in Western Canada, and the States.

It was the French architect, Le Corbusier who, in 1922 said that the elevator's simplicity and unadorned geometric shape was the ultimate example in architecture of 'form following function'.  In the 1933 there were as many as 5,758  elevators on the prairie.
An endless belt system with scoops was responsible for unloading the grain from the farmer's wagon, (later truck) taking the harvest up to the storage bins in the upper reaches of the building.  The building height was needed to allow gravity to work on the grain... quickly filling rail cars in order to transport a variety of grains across the country and on to ports for shipping around the world.

It sure would be great if every small town could preserve one and use it as a tourist attraction... might be one way to save the small towns and a bit of history.  A win/win situation.


12x12 acrylic on masonite.


Becky Joy said...

I like the texture in this one. Interesting bit of history about the grain elevators.

Dusty Pines said...

i really like this one - colors, texture, composition - somehow both spare & lush at the same time - and great info, too! around here, there are many barns falling into disrepair - lovely things, all grey wood . . . between modernization & falling economy, so much is lost . . . thank you for preserving a bit of it!