'Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin's Enduring Landscape' explores nature's beauty and an environment in crisis

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'Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin's Enduring Landscape' explores nature's beauty and an environment in crisis
Lloyd Scarseth (American, 1906–1984), Milking Time, 1941. Oil on canvas mounted on board, 21 1/8 x 29 1/8 in. Transfer from the Wisconsin Regional Art Program, UW–Madison Division of Continuing Studies. 2021.6.5

MADISON, WIS.- The exhibition 'Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin’s Enduring Landscape' on view at the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison that began on December 19th, and ends on March 26, 2023, captures the many ways American artists have engaged with nature for centuries. Works on view, such as Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone Lake (1874), celebrate the beauty of the outdoors while others, such as William H. Boose’s Clearing Petenwell Lake (1950), symbolize human power over nature.

Additional works address climate change and the consequences of the nation’s expansion and attempts to control nature, capturing early settlers’ influence on local ecosystems through farming, mining and technological innovations. While many artists commemorated the settlement of America, others lamented the ecological changes and used art to inspire conservation and environmental activism. The exhibition includes works by Indigenous artists and confronts slavery’s relationship to resource extraction.

Resource & Ruin celebrates the enduring landscape of Wisconsin and the United States through all these changes. The exhibition recognizes the ongoing efforts of Indigenous communities and conservationists to preserve the land, water and resources both locally and nationally to ensure American artists can continue to engage with nature for future generations.

Significance: Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin’s Enduring Landscape uses the Midwest’s natural surroundings as a lens to tell a national story of an environment in crisis. Featuring approximately 40 works dating from the 18th century to the present, the exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, ceramics and other media that showcase the complex relationship Americans have with nature, from admiring iconic landscapes to mining them for natural resources.

Content: Resource & Ruin features several important loans, including four works from the Wisconsin Historical Society and objects from the Chazen’s permanent collection. The exhibition also includes a rare Weed Vase by Frank Lloyd Wright and works by Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe, Lela Naranjo Gutierrez and Luther Gutierrez.

The Chazen Museum of Art makes its home between two lakes on the beautiful campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Within walking distance of the state capitol, it sits squarely in the heart of a vibrant college town. The Chazen’s expansive two-building site holds the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin and, at 166,000 square feet, is the largest collecting museum in the Big 10. The collection of approximately 24,000 works of art covers diverse historical periods, cultures and geographic locations, from ancient Greece, Western Europe and the Soviet Empire to Moghul India, 18th-century Japan and modern Africa.

Organizer: Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin’s Enduring Landscape was organized by the Chazen Museum of Art and curated by Janine Yorimoto Boldt, associate curator of American art.

Support: Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin’s Enduring Landscape is made possible in part by the generous support of the Irving & Dorothy Levy Family Foundation.

Programs: Several interactive gallery talks will highlight the themes and works on view. Details are to be announced on the museum website.

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