Reframing more than 300 years of diverse artistic practice in North America, from the colonial period to the present, Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment examines for the first time how American artists have both reflected and shaped environmental understanding while contributing to the emergence of a modern ecological consciousness.
The exhibiition traces evolving ideas about the environment – and our place within it – from colonial beliefs about natural theology and biblical dominion through the 19th-century notion of manifest destiny to the emergence of modern ecological ethics. This pioneering exhibition will gather over 100 works of art by a broad range of artists – including iconic masterpieces as well as rare and seldom exhibited works – and interpret them through an interdisciplinary lens that unites art and environmental history with scientific analysis, using ecocriticism as a tool to see the history of American art in a new light.
Albert Bierstadt, Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh (left); Valerie Hegarty. Fallen Bierstadt. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Campari, USA © Valerie Hegarty (right)
Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, offers the first broad ecocritical review of American art and examines the environmental contexts of artistic practice from the colonial period to the present day. Tracing how visions of the environment have changed from the Native-European encounter to the emergence of modern ecological activism, more than a dozen scholars and practitioners discuss how artists have both responded to and actively instigated changes in ecological understanding.
Far-reaching in its interpretive approach, the book looks at artworks across genres and media—including painting, sculpture, prints, photography, decorative arts, and video—revealing important new discoveries about creative encounters with environmental history and politics through materials, techniques, subjects, and ideas. The book features work by more than one hundred artists, from Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Cole, and Winslow Homer to Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.
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