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Photography and Perception: Exploring the Western Landscape

December 6, 2001 - May 4, 2002


Brigham Young University - Museum of Art has announced a new photographic exhibition titled Photography and Perception: Exploring the Western Landscape, with the public opening December 6, 2001 between 6:00pm and 8:00pm together with members from the photographic community.

The exhibition brings a number of key photographs from the 19th century together with significant images of the 20th century to examine the vision and reality of the western landscape. Curated by Diana Turnbow, the exhibition addresses the underlying aesthetic, economic and social issues surrounding the developing West over the past 150 years.

American landscape photography developed simultaneously with the exploration and settlement of the western United States after the Civil War. Photography played a major role in the American perception of the West as nineteenth-century photographers depicted an unoccupied landscape, full of wonder and potential. Mountains, waterfalls, deep river canyons, and unique geologic formations pictured through the camera of Carleton Watkins, Timothy O'Sullivan, and William Henry Jackson captured the imagination of the American pubic as these images were viewed through stereographs, cabinet cards, and print collections. Americans viewed the wilderness landscape as their cultural heritage, a resource equal or perhaps even superior to European art and culture. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny justified the occupation of the continent and development of the land and its resources. (left: Timothy O'Sullivan (1840-1882), Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico, albumen print, 10.875 x 8 inches, Denver Art Museum, 1991.483.48)

However, the Western landscape is no longer an unfamiliar region. Supporting urban population, in countless areas, the land has been altered by large-scale human occupation. Starting in the late 1960's the "New Topographic" photography movement examined man's impact on the land. Along with landscapes, the exhibition examines man-made images such as housing developments, roads, electric plants, and other structures.

Landscape photographer, Mark Klett said "Standing before the landscape with a camera is like looking into a mirror. The landscape reflects our own image, but so much of what we know, and what we think we know about the land has come through someone's lens."

Photographers in the exhibition include works by Ansel Adams, Edward Curtis, William Henry Jackson, Mark Klett, Craig Law, Richard Misrach, Timothy O'Sullivan, Carleton Watkins and many more. (right: Richard Misrach (b. 1949), Active Eagle's Nest, Bravo 20, 1986, chromogenic dye-coupler print, 30 x 40 inches, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, © Richard Misrach)

The exhibition will have 59 works on display, 17 of which are new Museum acquisitions of photographs by Richard Misrach, Kevin O'Connell, Craig Law, Robert Adams and Howard Rainer

In conjunction with the exhibition an extensive and stimulating lecture series will be open to the public commencing January 10 through April 11. Admission will be free.

Photography and Perception: Exploring the Western Landscape will be available for free public viewing.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Brigham Young University 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.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/3/11

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