Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus, OH



Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland


The character and values of the American Midwest have exerted a profound influence on the way the nation views itself. Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland," on view at the Columbus Museum of Art through April 30, 2000, brings four contemporary installations together with art from the 1920s through the 1940s to explore the cultural identity of the region. Including more than 100 paintings, photographs and four installations, the exhibition captures the complex spirit of a region that spans the heart of the nation.

"Illusions of Eden" is one component of "The Heartland Project," a series of three traveling museum exhibitions and an interactive website that will evaluate the impact of culture on present-day life in two different, yet intertwined, regions of the world: the Central United States and Central Europe.

Often considered the most quintessentially "American" of the nation's regions, the Midwest was recognized as a distinct cultural and geographic entity in the early part of the 20th century. Artists in the 1920s who lived or worked in the Midwest were the first to visually interpret the region, creating images that remain icons of our society.

"Illusions of Eden" features historical works that have seldom been viewed together, alongside innovative installations created by four contemporary artists with strong ties to the Midwest. Thus, "Illusions of Eden" places the accomplishments of past artists in a contemporary context. The exhibition is structured around five essential motifs of American and Midwestern culture. journey (history, time, transition, travel); garden (the earth, topography, nature); home (the family, society, culture); word (myth, memory, belief); and work (labor and the creation of goods). "Our participation in this exhibition continues our long commitment to the study of American art and to the organization of exhibitions for international audiences," explained Irvin M. Lippman, executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art. "With "Illusions of Eden," we are able to present a unique perspective on the art of the Midwest. We are proud to organize this project with our sister institutions to aid in understanding the cultural milestones of our countries." (left: Russell Lee, Hands of Mrs. Ostermyer, Wife of Homesteader, Woodbury Co. Iowa, 1936, gelatin silver print, 6 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Museum Purchase)

Twenty-seven painters from the first half of the 20th century will be represented, including Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Charles Burchfield, Aaron Bohrod, Clarence Carter, Archibald Motley and Marvin Cone. Photographers include Margaret Bourke-White, Russell Lee, Wright Morris and Charles Sheeler. Works by these artists relate to the journey motif. The contemporary component of the exhibition is composed of newly commissioned work by Malcolm Cochran (work), Maya Lin (garden), Mary Lucier (word) and Kerry James Marshall (home).

"Illusions of Eden" showcases works that capture the unique character and spirit of a region central to the economic and cultural development of the United States," said Stephanie French, vice president, corporate contributions for Philip Morris Companies Inc. "Philip Morris is proud to continue its more than 40-year commitment to the arts by sponsoring this exhibition and its national tour. Our company's ties to the heartland are particularly strong, with two of our five operating companies - Kraft Foods, Inc. and Miller Brewing Company - headquartered in the Midwest. We are therefore pleased to be working with the Ohio Arts Council, Arts Midwest and the Columbus Museum of Art to share these uniquely American works, both traditional and contemporary, with audiences around the country."

"Illusions of Eden" was organized by a team of curators led by Robert Stearns, senior program director, Arts Midwest; Columbus Museum of Art curators Nannette Maciejunes, senior curator, Annegreth Nill, curator of 20th century and contemporary art; Catherine Evans, curator of photography; Michael D. Hall, independent critic and artist; and Karal Ann Marling, professor of art history, University of Minnesota.

From Columbus, the show travels to the Museum of Modern Art/Ludwig Foundation Vienna, Austria (June 1 through August 15, 2000); the Ludwig Museum/Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Hungary (September 21 through November 26, 2000); the Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin (February 24 through May 13, 2001); and the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (June through August 2001). Additional U.S. venues are under consideration.

The exhibition is produced by Arts Midwest and the Ohio Arts Council's International Program in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art. Additional financial support is provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Ohio Arts Foundation, Inc., and state arts council partners the Illinois Arts Council, the South Dakota Arts Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board. Financial and facilitative assistance is provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. Special commissioning support is provided by Loann W. Crane. "Illusions of Eden" is endorsed by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and its European tour is designated an official Millennium event of the White House Millennium Council.

A full-color catalog in English, Hungarian and German accompanies "Illusions of Eden." In addition, a key component of the exhibition is an interactive website including images, as well as historical, cultural and educational information about the exhibition and the Midwest.


The Heartland Project

Components of The Heartland Project are:

Major support for The Heartland Project website is provided by Spike, Inc. and AT&T.


See also our section on midwest 20th century art: 20th Century Midwest States Painting

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Read more about Columbus Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/27/10

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