This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World

This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World explores artistic responses to the natural world by diverse American artists working from the early nineteenth century to the present. It is the first major installation of the museum’s historic American collection to be organized thematically, rather than chronologically. More significantly, it features not only Euro-American, African American, Latin American, and Asian American works but also, for the first time, traditional and contemporary Native American works hung alongside this early to contemporary “American” art. This collaboratively curated exhibition of approximately 160 works fills four galleries as it compels us to consider new perspectives on historical and contemporary art by diverse artists, Native and non-Native, and to reflect on our own relationship to place and land. How, for instance, have experiences of home and the natural world changed historically and in our own lifetimes? How have they already been impacted by unanticipated phenomena, such as the COVID-19 pandemic? What actions would help to provide all Americans a secure sense of home, in both the built and the natural environment?

“Featuring works both beautiful and challenging, This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World compels viewers to reflect on their own relationship to place and land through historical and contemporary art by Native and non-Native artists. This groundbreaking exhibition, drawn entirely from the Hood Museum of Art’s collection, is the museum’s first major installation of traditional and contemporary Native American art set alongside early-to-contemporary art by African American, Asian American, Euro-American, and Latin American artists. It is also the first thematic, rather than chronological, installation of the museum’s historic American collection. By incorporating a multitude of artistic responses to the natural world from the early 19th century to the present, This Land participates in a long-overdue broadening of what constitutes “American” art in the museum field.

The director of the Hood Museum of Art, John Stomberg, said, “This Land opens new doors on the history of art and culture, boldly facing the complicated, and often painful, relationships that have shaped American art today. This exhibition prompts dialogue and historical reconsideration while presenting deeply evocative art of astonishing beauty.”

Exhibition co-curator Jami Powell, the Hood Museum’s curator of Indigenous art, says, “As a collaboratively curated project, This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World raises as many questions as it answers. This exhibition urges us to consider our relationships with the natural world and our hopes for its future. It is also a project that we hope will encourage our colleagues to ask difficult questions and engage in meaningful dialogues about what constitutes ‘American’ art as well as who has the power to define it.”

The exhibition’s curatorial team also includes former Jonathan Little Cohen Curator of American Art Barbara J. MacAdam, former Curatorial Assistant for American Art Thomas Price, and former DAMLI Native American Art Fellow Morgan E. Freeman, as well as current Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art Michael Hartman.

This Land encompasses seven powerful thematic installations:

■“An Ecocritical Lens” examines the impacts of resource extraction and environmental degradation through contemporary photography.

■“Knowing Nature” looks at the natural world from a variety of perspectives — scientific, aesthetic, personal, communal, spiritual, and political. Works ranging from an exquisitely detailed pastel by John James Audubon to the colorful, intricate beadwork of Jamie Okuma reflect deep knowledge passed down orally from generation to generation or technical information acquired through book learning, fieldwork, and formal or informal artistic training.

■“Sustenance” explores food acquisition in relation to concepts of necessity, abundance, nourishment, and labor, and includes prints by Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett; photographs by George A. Tice; and a signed stoneware jug by enslaved potter David Drake.

■“Expansion, Encounter, and Exchange” investigates the doctrine of Manifest Destiny — the belief that colonial expansion across the continent was both inevitable and pre-ordained — by recontextualizing works of Thomas Cole, Charles Russell, Elizabeth Hickox, and others.

■“Power of Place” explores how both individual and communal connections with the landscape are expressed through the iconic photographs of national parks by Ansel Adams and the depictions of urban centers by contemporary New York–based Dominican artists, including Alex Guerrero, Scherezade García, and Yunior Chiqui Mendoza.

■“Force of Nature” shows how elements of nature can be beneficial in moderation but destructive in extremes, as depicted in the work of Chris Jordan, Severa Tafoya, and Ken Gonzales-Day, among others.

■“Reimagining American Landscapes” demonstrates how contemporary artists such as Faith Ringgold, Arthur Amiotte, Fred Wilson, and Michael Namingha expand the visualization of the United States beyond the more conventional landscapes that often represent the nation.

This Land joins a purposeful grouping of exhibitions questioning knowledge and the American landscape at the Hood Museum of Art for the first half of 2022.”

This exhibition is organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and was generously supported by a gift from Claire Foerster and Daniel Bernstein, Class of 1987, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Hood Museum of Art

Dartmouth College, Hanover NY

Jan 5 – July 24

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