“The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents an exhibition of more than 100 works by American artists from the 18th-century through present day that explores evolving ideas about the environment and our place within it. Nation’s Nation: American Art and Environment features major paintings, photographs, works on paper, and sculpture drawn from museum and private collections around the country by artists such as Ansel Adams, John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange, Kent Monkman (Cree), Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob August Riis, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai), and Andrew Wyeth. This is the first exhibition to examine how American and Native American artists reflect and shape our understanding of the environment, from deeply held perspectives of interconnected ties to the universe to colonial beliefs that imagines nature as a hierarchy of species with men at the top, and also the modern emergence of ecological ethics.
The exhibition opens with a bold, contemporary work, Repellent Fence/Valla Repelente, by an Indigenous artist collective Postcommodity. In 2015, the collective installed 26 tethered balloons along a two-mile route crossing the United States-Mexico border. Each balloon, 10 feet in diameter and floating 50 feet high, looked out on the setting through its “scare eye,” a graphic intended to repel wildlife from property. From this aerial perspective, the “scare eye” is redeployed to “see” land, communities, and ecosystems connected as a unified whole, not divided by artificial, man-made borders and boundaries between cultures and land.” — Peabody Essex Museum
Albert Bierstadt, American, 1830–1902, Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite, ca. 1871–73. Oil on canvas. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) and various donors, by exchange.
Valerie Hegarty, American, born 1967, Fallen Bierstadt, 2007. Foamcore, paint, paper, glue, gel medium, canvas, wire, wood. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Campari, USA 2008. © Valerie Hegarty.
Tlingit artist, Chilkat blanket, before 1832. Mountain goat wool and cedar bark. Gift of Captain Robert Bennet Forbes, 1832. © 2010 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
Robert Rauschenberg, American, 1925–2008, Earth Day, 1970. Color lithograph with collage. Gift of the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum. © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg/licensed by VAGA, New York.
David Gilmour Blythe, American, 1815 – 1865, Prospecting/Bullcreek City, ca. 1861–63. Oil on canvas. Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Bequest of Richard M. Scaife.
Mateo Romero, Cochiti Pueblo, b.1966, In and Around These Mountains, 1999. Oil, paper, canvas. Donated by the Margie and James Krebs Fund, 1999. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Subhankar Banerjee, Indian, active in United States, born 1967, Caribou Migration I (Oil and the Caribou, Coleen River Valley), 2002. Digital chromogenic print. Collection Lannan Foundation. © Subhankar Banerjee.
Alexandre Hogue, American, 1898 – 1994, Crucified Land, 1939. Oil on canvas. Gift of Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955 Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa Oklahoma. © Estate of Alexandre Hogue.
Thomas Cole, American, 1801–1848, A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (C rawford Notch), 1839. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Fund.
Robert Smithson, American, 1938–1973, Bingham Copper Mining Pit, Utah Reclamation Project, 1973. Wax pencil and tape on plastic overlay on photograph. Seibert Family Collection. Art © Holt/Smithson Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Georgia O’Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, The Lawrence Tree, 1929. Oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum.
Postcommodity, Repellent Fence/ Valla Repelente, 2015. Installation view at U.S./Mexico Border, Douglas, Arizona/Agua Pieta, Sonora, 2015. © Postcommodity. Photo by Michael Lundgren. Courtesy of Postcommodity and Bockley Gallery.
Winslow Homer, American, 1836–1910, A Huntsman and Dogs, 1891. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art: The William L. Elkins Collection, 1924.
Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment has been organized by the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition is co-curated 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 William & Mary.
Images courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.