The Harn Museum of Art

Gainesville, FL



The Swamp: On the Edge of Eden

September 29, 2000-January 7, 2001


This exhibition presents historic and contemporary art engaging the unique landscape of the swamp as a place of primordial beauty and a contested site for environmental exploitation. Tied to the specific history and topography of Southeastern swamplands, the exhibition also links to more universal concerns. Notions of natural and unnatural, fantasy and reality are of particular concern in places such as Florida where nature has been replaced and reconstructed in an expanding network of theme parks. (left: Maud Gatewood, Above a Small Swamp, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 inches, photograph by Melva Calder, courtesy of St. John's Museum of Art, Wilmington, North Carolina)

This intriguing and timely exhibit features 62 works of art including painting, sculpture, photography, and installation work by recognized and emerging artists. The historic section of the exhibition features paintings by major American landscape artists from the mid 19th- to the mid 20th-century, including works by Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Moran whose depictions of the southern wilderness contributed to America's popular vision. (right: Martin Johnson Heade, The Great Florida Marsh, 1885, oil on canvas, 28 3/8 x 54 3/8 inches, lent by The Flagler System, Inc., Palm Beach, Florida, photo courtesy: North Carolina Museum of Art)

Contemporary works by artists including Naomi Fisher, Robert Cober, Sally Mann, and Robert Rauschenberg, provide diverse perspectives on the swamp, with visions that juxtapose a longing for "paradise" with an acute awareness of threatening environmental degradation. The works range from the realistic to the fantastic, from panoramic visions to microscopic investigations, examining the fragile and sometimes volatile interaction of man and nature.

An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition to provide a multi-disciplinary understanding of the swamp from art and literary texts, scientific journals and other sources on the native ecology. The catalogue includes essays by art historian Lucy Lippard, cultural historians David Miller and Gregory Ulmer, and wetland ecologist Katherine Ewel.

The Swamp: On the Edge of Eden, organized by the Harn Museum and curated by Kerry Oliver-Smith, curator of contemporary art, closes on January 7, 2001. The exhibition will travel to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida (February 7-April 15, 2001).

The exhibition and catalogue are sponsored by Academic Affairs, University of Florida; with support from the State of Florida, Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council; with additional funding from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

rev. 10/9/00

The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art is located on the University of Florida campus at SW 34th Street and Hull Road. (PO Box 11270, Gainesville, FL 32611-2700). Admission is free. Call the museum for hours. (information as of 10/00).

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

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

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