More than a fly-over state: Photographer Char-Marie Flood captures North Dakota’s natural beauty, history in City Hall Exhibit

Documentary photographer Char-Marie Flood loves a good solo adventure across the dusty back roads of North Dakota. To her, the vast landscape equals endless opportunities to capture the state’s rich history.

“I always hoped I’d get lost,” Flood says, as the wind ruffled the chimes hanging outside her screened-in porch in Harwood, N.D. “I had a compass in my car and knew I would always find my way to something major.”

During one particular adventure in the Turtle Mountains in 2011, Flood came across a clump of trees she realized were the remnants of a homestead.

“The Homestead” by Char-Marie Flood.

“There was something beautiful about it, but also very haunting,” Flood said. “It piqued my curiosity. I thought, ‘What else can the land tell me?’ ”

That’s when Flood began collecting photos for “Dakotaland,” an exhibition of 23 photographs on canvas that capture the details of North Dakota’s simple yet striking beauty: the ruggedness of the Badlands, fields with even rows of freshly cut hay, hoar frost sharp enough to cut a finger or dark gray clouds rolling in, ready to burst with rain.

Although a cohesive exhibition, every photo in the exhibit on display at Fargo City Hall represents a different season, time of day or area of the state.

“I felt such a connection to the earth, and the layers of history that are here,” Flood said. “North Dakota has been called a ‘fly-over state,’ but to me, it was a great horizontal, 360-degree kind of experience.”

Gathering the photos all over the state took Flood nearly five years. She received a grant from The Arts Partnership to help fund the project.

Once completed, Flood debuted “Dakotaland” in Medora last summer at the Historic Von Hoffman House, where she spent two weeks as the artist-in-residence, sharing her experiences with visitors from near and far.

“Abandoned” by Char-Marie Flood.

The city of Fargo’s Arts and Culture Commission engaged curator Tania Blanich to develop the exhibit for Fargo City Hall where it’ll be on display until December.

Kylene Murphy, the assistant planner in the city of Fargo’s planning and development department, said having public art within city hall allows the community to recognize local artistic talent and provide an enriching environment for all visitors.

“The exhibit showcases the beauty of North Dakota which both visitors and employees can relate to,” Murphy said.

“Autumn Glory” by Char-Marie Flood.

There will be several opportunities for the public to engage in discussion around the works, such as the Artist Talk and Brown Bag Lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 in the city commission chambers. At least one other talk will take place in the fall.

Flood hasn’t always called North Dakota home. Throughout her life, “home” was wherever her business career took her. She traveled extensively and lived a “vertical” life in big cities like Chicago and San Francisco.

“Fallow Ground” by Char-Marie Flood.

While on work trips all over the globe, Flood took up black and white street photography as a fun way to explore her surroundings and nourish her creativity. Photography was a personal venture until a friend at a photo shop in San Francisco acknowledged her talent.

Most of Flood’s subject matter primarily includes nature and urban and rural landscapes. Her work has been showcased in public, corporate and private collections throughout the Midwest.

“I think for a lot of years, I saw the world in black and white. Then I came to North Dakota and saw these wide-open skies… I knew, without a question, (the photos) had to be in color,” Flood said.

“Amber Waves of Grain” by Char-Marie Flood.

Flood hopes “Dakotaland” becomes a traveling exhibit, both in and out of North Dakota, to show outsiders what the state has to offer and remind fellow North Dakotans how beautiful our home really is.

“Doing this exhibition really helped me claim this state, and I’m proud to be a North Dakotan,” Flood said. “You can travel the world, but it’s all right here.”

Char-Marie Flood. Photo by Ryan Ayers.

If You Go

What: Artist talk for “Dakotaland” exhibit by Char-Marie Flood

When: 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6

Where: City commission chambers at Fargo City Hall, 200 3rd St. N.

Info: Additional related events will be scheduled in the fall. Updated information can be found at www.fargoartsandculture.com.

This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, June 5, 2017.

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