Regan Golden: Edgelands

Regan Golden uses drawing and altered photographs to represent ecological change in the American landscape. Most recently she has been working with urban plant life to offer a unique take on the green spaces around the Twin Cities.

Depicting “Edgelands”

I grew up near the intersection of Highways 280 and 94. We used to play in this grassy area alongside the railroad tracks. It protects the neighborhood from the pollution of the highway, filtering the air, and sheltering it from the traffic, the railroad yard, a cement plant. I’m interested in the way these spaces conceal something people don’t want to see. These spaces are interesting to me because they are so persistent. They’re hanging on when everything else has been clear-cut, and they are not cared for at all. People dump stuff in there, there’s no one weeding it, no one pulling out the invasive plants. It’s just a free-for-all, where the strongest survive. They are often full of nasty plants. There’s no path. You’re stepping over the tires that someone dumped in there, and poison ivy — and then you see a lady slipper plant growing there. 

The Effect of Science

One of the grants I received was from the National Science Foundation for long-term ecological research, and that was for the work I did at the Harvard forest in western Massachusetts. There was a frustration among some of the scientists about the way artists depict that landscape – perfect rolling green hills, very beautiful. They were not pleased with that view of the world because they see the forest as something that’s constantly changing, always evolving, never perfect, and never in balance. They shared my frustration with traditional landscape photography that depicts the world as this perfect, untouched place where everything is in perfect equilibrium. I never want to make pictures that depict that, because it is not my experience of these landscapes.

Balancing Art and Motherhood

I started making a work about plants in St. Paul when I was home every day with two small kids. I looked out literally to the landscape that was outside of my house, which was a small swatch of nondescript scrub brush. I also found that when I was home with kids, I was losing track of time. I couldn’t tell you if it was Wednesday or Sunday. Every day was the same. So the plants helped me keep track of time. There’s a kind of synchronicity between the time of taking care of toddlers and the time of plants. I would like to think it helped me to be more aware of the changes in my kids. It helped me to be more alert and more present. 

Regan Golden received a 2015 Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists and a 2017 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory at the University of Minnesota. She is currently Visiting Faculty in Painting and Drawing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.