Landscape photo clicks with Bert Nash

Jim Nedresky's work stretches from Kansas prairie to Gulf of Mexico

Sunday, May 13, 2001

A Lawrence photographer's work has been selected for this year's Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center's Mental Health Month print.

Jim Nedresky's "Winter Prairie, Douglas County," a landscape shot north of the Lawrence Municipal Airport, will be reproduced on posters and note cards and used to raise money for the mental health center.

"Sandra Shaw (the center's chief executive officer) was retiring. � Since Sandra had an interest in photography, they wanted to celebrate her retirement by using a photograph (for the poster)," Nedresky said.

Pat Roach Smith, community development director for Bert Nash, said in the past the poster had always featured a painting.

"For the last 1 1/2 years or so we had thought about photography, and this time we wanted to do something different," she said. "We require that it be a Douglas County artist and the subject be of Douglas County, which narrowed it down."

While the Bert Nash poster shows a Douglas County scene, Nedresky is most known for his photography of the Flint Hills and its 8,600-acre Konza Prairie. He has shot thousands of images of the charred patterns of controlled burns, brown and orange grasses, and vivid wildflowers of the native tallgrass prairie.

One of his latest projects is "Land Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie," a coffee-table-style book that accompanied the documentary film of the same name by Aimee Larrabee and John Altman. The film was broadcast in April by PBS.

Nedresky met the filmmakers in 1995-1996 while he was photographing the Konza Prairie.

"They knew about my stuff," he said, recalling that they later asked if he would like to contribute to the book and film. "Seventy percent of the images (in the book) are mine."

The photo used for the book cover also will be reproduced on the cover of the video version of the documentary and the jacket for a CD by Lyle Lovett, who served as host and wrote the documentary's music.

For the past several months, Nedresky's photography has in part taken off in another direction: Southern folk art and the Gulf of Mexico. His wife, Marvel Maring, left her job at Kansas University to get a master's degree in book arts from Alabama State University in Montgomery.

On visits south, Nedresky has become interested in a "cross garden" created by a rural folk artist in Prattville, Ala. The man has filled his home and yard with crosses and inscriptions of Bible verses.

"I'm also interested in coastal projects and the islands," he said. "I will start (shooting) in the Gulf � the island culture and the Georgian islands."

Roach Smith of the Bert Nash center said the link between art and mental health is clear. That is why the center likes to promote local artists as part of its annual fund-raising campaign.

"We know research shows that having art objects around one's self is good for mental health. It's pleasing and calming," she said. "Research shows landscape scenes are most pleasing so that's why we stay in that genre.

"The creating of those art objects is good for one's mental health," she added. "When you let the left (side of the) brain go, it's cathartic and very healing."