Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2018
Major Traveling Exhibition Offers Expansive New Vision of American Art Through the Lens of Environmental History and Changing Ideas About Nature
Distributed June 4, 2018
Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment debuts at Princeton University Art Museum Oct. 13, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019
PRINCETON, NJ–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 exhibition 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 approximately 125 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.
Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition is cocurated by Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding curator of American art at the Princeton University Art Museum; and Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark associate professor of art history and American studies at the College of William and Mary.
After its premiere at Princeton (Oct. 13, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019), the exhibition travels to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts (Feb. 2-May 5, 2019) and to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (May 25–Sept. 9, 2019).
“Nature’s Nation advances a new approach to understanding and interpreting American art of the past three centuries, opening up rich avenues of engagement with both celebrated and less familiar works of art,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “At a time when the question of our relationship with the natural world is so much on our minds, Nature’s Nation positions the museum as a crucial site for close looking, conversation and exchange on questions that matter both to our identities as Americans and to our future.”
Nature’s Nation will consist of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, videos and works of decorative art gathered from more than 70 eminent collections across the United States as well as from Princeton’s own extensive holdings. The exhibition will be arranged in three chronological eras marked by shifting human conceptions of the natural world and increasing artistic awareness of environmental change.
Among the more than 100 artists featured in the exhibition will be John James Audubon, George Bellows, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Thomas Eakins, Theaster Gates, Winslow Homer, Louisa Keyser, Dorothea Lange, Ana Mendieta, Thomas Moran, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Willson Peale, Sarah Miriam Peale, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Alexis Rockman, Robert Smithson and Carleton Watkins.
A major 448-page catalogue, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition. In addition to a series of expansive narrative essays by the curators, the publication features contributions by 13 distinguished scholars and artists in a variety of fields, including art historians Rachael DeLue and Robin Kelsey, artists Mark Dion and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and environmental theorists Timothy Morton and Rob Nixon.
Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment has been made possible with leadership support from Shelly Malkin, Class of 1986, and Tony Malkin; Annette Merle-Smith; the Henry Luce Foundation; the Princeton Environmental Institute; and the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. Generous support has been provided by the Humanities Council, the Dean for Research Innovation Fund, and the Humanities Council’s David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grant, Princeton University; and the National Endowment for the Arts. Further support has been provided by Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; Stacey Roth Goergen, Class of 1990, and Robert B. Goergen; the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.
About the Princeton University Art Museum
With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 100,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.
Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.
The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.
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