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Heritage Museums art exhibit looks at landscapes in a whole new light

Heritage Museums landscapes

“The Beginning of Summer” by Jane Freilicher • Artwork courtesy of Heritage Museums & Gardens

Exhibit presents traditional views alongside cityscapes, urban scenes and abstract works

“Painted Landscapes: Contemporary Views” is an exhibit of landscape paintings that challenges traditional concepts about what a landscape painting is. The exhibit features not only classic American landscape paintings, influenced by the early 19th-century Hudson River School, but also cityscapes as well as urban, industrial and abstract works. Because it focuses on contemporary views about what a landscape is, “this exhibit takes the landscape further,” says Amy Dean, Heritage Museums & Gardens’ marketing director.

The exhibit, which opened at Heritage in April and runs through October 9, 2017, is based on the book Painted Landscapes: Contemporary Views (2013) by Lauren Della Monica, founder of LPDM Fine Art Consulting in New York City. As an art advisor, Della Monica curates works of art for private collections and shows. Over time, she became fascinated by the fact that no matter how diverse her clients’ tastes were, they almost always chose a landscape painting as part of their collection. “For some, those paintings are traditional landscapes, and others gravitate toward urban or abstract landscapes,” says Della Monica. “Even though landscape paintings are everywhere, landscape painting doesn’t get much attention because it is thought of as being a traditional genre. I thought it would make an exciting project to show viewers what I had been seeing across the country.” The result of five years of research, Della Monica’s book features the works of 60 contemporary American artists, including Cape Cod’s Jim Holland.

Ellen Spear, Heritage’s president and CEO, met Della Monica in 2013 at a book signing. “I was flabbergasted by Painted Landscapes,” says Spear. “The approach by contemporary painters and the regional differences in their work spoke to the range of environmental issues around the country.” Spear was so taken by the book that she invited Della Monica to guest-curate an exhibit at Heritage based on it. “We’re an indoor and outdoor museum,” Spear says, “so it’s the perfect venue.” While the book is divided into geographical sections, the exhibit is arranged by five underlying themes that Della Monica contemplated in her research: history and interpretation, place, structure and landscape, the tree, and the act of painting.

History and Interpretation

Painters today build upon traditions and also create their own, Della Monica notes in the introduction she wrote for this section. “Hopper’s House” (2008), by Jim Holland, who lives and works on Cape Cod, is a tribute to early 20th-century painter Edward Hopper. The painting, which appears on the cover of Della Monica’s book, depicts Hopper’s house situated on a green landscape against the sea in Truro; it’s a classic, realistic rendering. Alex Katz’s “Trees Against Blue Sky” (1987), on the other hand, shows simple black silhouettes of trees, bordering on the abstract, against a twilight blue sky; it’s part of a series of Maine skyscape paintings. Lois Dodd’s “Tunnel at Vail in Snow” (1978) highlights the juxtaposition of man-made and natural elements. “Vail is a small town in New Jersey,” says Dodd, who lives in New York City and has been exhibiting her work since the 1950s. “They’d start to build railroads and never finish them, and I became very intrigued with the unfinished railroads and tunnels as far as landscapes.”

Also included in this section of the exhibit is Hopper’s “Blackhead, Monhegan” (circa 1918), an original oil on panel from the Collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut.


Landscapes in this section reflect both specific locations and broader concepts of environment. April Gornik’s “Appalachian Night” (2001) is a larger-than-life realistic painting that pulls the viewer in with its orange-pink clouds behind a silhouette of the Appalachian Mountains. In contrast, “Verdeseeps,” (2009) by Johnnie Winona Ross, features alternating horizontal stripes of white and gray with thin strands of green that seem to emanate from behind. Elizabeth O’Reilly’s “Grist Terminal Reflected” (2011) and “Third Street with Circle” (2011) show semirealistic urban and industrial scenes, also depicting locations where the man-made meets the natural world.

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