Presenting works that are both beautiful and stimulating, This Land: America’s Engagement with the Natural World compels viewers to reflect on their own relationship to place and land through historical and contemporary art by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. This groundbreaking exhibition, drawn entirely from the collection of the Hood Museum of Art, is the museum’s first major installation of traditional and contemporary Native American art, alongside contemporary art by African American, Asian, Euro-American and Latin Americans. . It is also the first thematic, rather than chronological, installation in the museum’s American Historical Collection. By incorporating a multitude of artistic responses to the natural world from the early 19th century to the present day, This earth participates in a long-awaited broadening of what constitutes “American” art in the museum field.
Hood Museum of Art director John Stomberg said: “This earth opens new doors in the history of art and culture, boldly confronting the complicated, and often painful, relationships that have shaped American art today. This exhibition invites dialogue and historical reconsideration while presenting deeply evocative art of stunning beauty.
The exhibit’s co-curator, Jami Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art at the Hood Museum, says, “As a collaboratively organized project, This Land: America’s Engagement with the Natural World raises as many questions as it answers. This exhibition invites us to reflect on our relationship 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 and 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 Assistant Curator for American Art Thomas Price, and former DAMLI Fellow Native American Art Morgan E. Freeman, as well as current Associate Curator Jonathan Little Cohen of American Art Michael Hartman.
This earth includes seven powerful themed installations:
■“An Ecocritical Lens” examines the impacts of resource extraction and environmental degradation through contemporary photography.
■ “Knowing Nature” examines the natural world from a variety of perspectives: scientific, aesthetic, personal, community, spiritual and political. Works ranging from the exquisitely detailed pastel of John James Audubon to the colorful and 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 the acquisition of food in relation to the concepts of need, abundance, food and work, and includes prints by Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett; photographs by George A. Tice; and a stoneware jug signed by slave 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 preordained – by recontextualizing the works of Thomas Cole, Charles Russell, Elizabeth Hickox and others.
■“Power of Place” explores how individual and communal connections to the landscape are expressed through Ansel Adams’ iconic photographs of national parks and depictions of urban centers by contemporary New York-based Dominican artists including Alex Guerrero, Scherezade Garcia, and Yunior Chiqui Mendoza.
■’Force of Nature’ shows how the elements of nature can be beneficial in moderation but destructive in the extreme, as seen in the work of Chris Jordan, Severa Tafoya and Ken Gonzales-Day, among others.
■“Reimagining American Landscapes” shows 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 earth joins a deliberate group of exhibitions questioning knowledge and the American landscape at the Hood Museum of Art for the first half of 2022. This includes Form and relationship: contemporary indigenous ceramics, whose artists use earth or clay as a central means of organization and rely not only on its materiality but also on the knowledge embedded in it. Uninterrupted: Native American Ceramics, Sculpture and Design, hosted by Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative Native American art interns Dillen Peace ’19 (Diné) and Hailee Brown ’20 (Diné), explores themes of continuity, innovation and Indigenous knowledge through time . In addition, the adjoining facility OFFENSE: Logbook 20 | NEBULOUS, by Shinnecock ceramic and multimedia artist Courtney M. Leonard, invites viewers into a dialogue about the violence we perpetuate against the aquatic ecosystem through the impact of “ghost fishing,” which occurs when traps and Shipwrecked aquaculture nets are left in open waters.
This earth runs from January 5 to July 24 and will occupy four galleries of the museum. It was organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, and generously supported by a gift from Claire Foerster and Daniel Bernstein, Class of 1987. Related winter programming at the museum will include an evening for educators, an adult workshop and a conversation with artist Cara Romero, as well as the opening celebration of the winter exhibition; visit hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu for details.