Free admission (all visitors, all hours)
At a time when the pandemic has forced us to redefine tourism, “Landscape Art and Virtual Travel” celebrates artists’ striking ability to transport us to real and imaginary places. Experiencing nature—including through images—benefits us emotionally and physically, demonstrating just one of the ways in which art has a uniquely beneficial impact on our lives. The exhibition also demonstrates some of the ways in which Native Americans, African Americans, and other marginalized people have successfully and potently staked their claim in the face of historic denial of ownership and connection to American soil.
American landscape paintings have always been intertwined with explorations of the great outdoors. In the mid-nineteenth century, many artists meditated on the sublimity of nature, whether gazing at the Hudson River’s Palisades or embarking on a far-ranging tour. Landscape painters brought distant places into the homes of their patrons and, popularized in books and prints, landscape art inspired a growing middle class to travel to these destinations. Artists continue to bring the world to us and send us out on our own adventures to this day. As a city-based museum overlooking the magnificent scenery of the lower Hudson River, we use our unique location as a lens to look more closely at people and their environments.
Landscape Art and Virtual Travel features two new loans from Art Bridges: Cynthia Daignault’s Light Atlas and David Hockney’s 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon. Daignault’s epic Light Atlas, 2016, began as a drawing. The artist traced the route she would take on a road map, snaking a thin pencil along the outside border of the continental United States. Then she drove the loop, on blue highways and backroads, avoiding interstates and stopping every few miles to get out of the car—look, paint, walk, or just sit. Traveling over 30,000 miles, across forests, deserts, mountains, and fields, she followed the road for a year. The result is Daignault’s most ambitious work to date: 360 paintings, one for each degree of the circle she traveled. Light Atlas chronicles the view every 25 miles around the country. Humanist and non-hierarchical, no single canvas stands above any other and significance rises only from the meaningful whole.
The work was inspired by the artist’s realization that she could name 100 men who roamed the country to create canonical works that have defined America, yet she could not name one such woman. At a moment when inequity is at the center of the American public discourse, Daignault wanted to assert her own rights to agency and opinion—to move freely through the country and to voice a comprehensive thesis on its identity. “Not just a room of one’s own anymore,” she explains, “but a whole world.”
British artist David Hockney, whose work, 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, shows the artist’s fascination with the idea of space and how we perceive it. This fascination was, in part, what led him to follow in the footsteps of artists such as Hudson River School painter Thomas Moran, whose work is also featured in the exhibition. In the late 1990s, Hockney traveled to the American West to paint the Grand Canyon, leaving out himself and other visitors to let the viewer of his artwork connect with the vast unpopulated landform he depicted.