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The Great Unknown: Artists at Glen Canyon and Lake Powell Opens at the New Mexico Museum of Art

March 25th, 2019

(Santa Fe, NM)—The New Mexico Museum of Art presents the opening of The Great Unknown: Artists at Glen Canyon and Lake Powell, on March 30, running through September 15, 2019. The exhibition looks the many aspects of Glen Canyon and its history through the eyes of artists, offering a visual narrative in more than eighty works in a variety of mediums. The result is a rich tapestry of human responses to the natural world that engages with a broad range of artistic and social issues. A free, public opening reception will be held at the museum on April 5, 2019, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., which coincides with the museum’s first, free Sunday on April 7, 2019.

Works by Eliot Porter, Tad Nichols, Todd Webb, and Georgia O’Keeffe from the 1950s and 1960s inspired the exhibition, expressing a variety of artistic reactions to the extraordinary landscape of Glen Canyon on repeated visits in small groups of friends. Set against the impending construction by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of a dam and reservoir that would flood the canyon, each interpreted the experience differently, offering a range of images from the documentary to the abstract.

But these were far from the first artists to be inspired by the river and the Canyon. The exhibition features examples of pottery and household goods made by Ancestral Puebloan inhabitants who developed a flourishing culture along the Colorado River. Two photographs by John Hillers, who traveled the Colorado Plateau with the explorer John Wesley Powell, represent the beginnings of the population expansion into the American West and are among the earliest photographs of the region.

“Glen Canyon and the Colorado Plateau are such resonant places partly because they so clearly show the history of the earth itself and traces of some of the country’s earliest ancestors,” said Curator of Photography Katherine Ware. “In a place of so many stories we have concentrated on work by a selection of artists to whom this was a very special place.”

Glen Canyon Dam itself is the focus of a series of photographs by Martin Stupich while Greg Mac Gregor captures images of the dam and the resulting lake in the course of his retracing of the journey of Spanish priests Dominguez and Escalante. Steven Yazzie’s installation piece “J.W. Powell & Associates” reminds us of Powell’s initial trip down the Colorado in 1869 – this year marks its sesquicentennial – and his vision of regional and community-based agriculture in the arid West.

Examining the dam and lake in the twenty-first century, photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe collaborated with writer and activist Rebecca Solnit to create the multi-panel piece Drowned River. Using Eliot Porter’s book The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado as a starting point, the group spent time together on Lake Powell contemplating the history and the future of Glen Canyon. Landscape photographer Peter Goin, who has regularly visited Glen Canyon over several decades, presents a group of photographs that use it as an emblematic site for addressing the impacts and potentials of human interaction with the natural world.

Using photographs, pottery, paintings, projections, artifacts, and soundscape, the exhibition articulates more than one hundred years of human creativity in Glen Canyon, presenting an artistic narrative crafted around human responses to the natural world. Visitors are invited to contemplate the art and ideas and to share their own thoughts and memories about Glen Canyon and Lake Powell.

The exhibition’s opening reception will be held at the museum on April 5, 2019, from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., hosted by the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico.

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3-MOA-Mark Klett, Bryon Wolfe and Rebecca Solnit, First Camp ,

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