Published: September 30, 2003
Along the unspoiled banks of the Lieutenant River, the Florence Griswold Museum’s new Krieble Gallery is the site for an exhibition that celebrates rivers and the significant role they have in history and in imagination.
“The American River,” on view from October 11 through January 4, is a national juried exhibition organized by the Great River Arts Institute in Walpole, N.H. Nationally recognized curators selected 40 artworks from more than 1,600 submissions. Augmenting these pieces are 12 works by invited artists. Rivers from across America are represented.
Each artist in “The American River” is represented by a single work. Some of the art focuses on the impact encroaching settlement and industrialization has had on the river and the environment. Other works are responses to paintings by Nineteenth Century American landscape painters, such as Thomas Cole. Still others are purely aesthetic meditations on the place the river holds in the artist’s creative imagination. The exhibition includes paintings, prints, photographs and drawings – both representational and abstract – that explore the river’s place in the American psyche, as well as its practical importance in industry, transportation and recreation.
New York artist Stephen Hannock’s “The Oxbow, after Church, after Cole, Flooded,” 1994, is related to the Hudson River School in composition and content. Hannock’s “Oxbow” is from the same vantage point as an earlier work by Thomas Cole. Hannock updates Cole’s depiction of the contrast between wild nature and cultivated landscape by showing Interstate 91 cutting through the land.
Steve Graber of Baldwin City, Kan., created a charcoal drawing called “Marlowe Field,” 2001, that is photographic in effect. The generalized view of clouds and land with water snaking through it creates tension with the specificity of the title, mirroring the tension between the subjectivity of a drawing and the presumed objectivity of a photograph. M. Whiting’s “Riparian Rights,” 2000, is the most politically charged piece in the exhibition. The artist from Waterloo, Iowa, raises questions about privileges associated with ownership of American waterways.
Judith Cotton lives in New York, but spends time in Hadlyme, Conn., on the Connecticut River. Her experience with the restorative qualities of life on the river inspired a series of paintings of rowers, one of which is included in this exhibition. Ted Hendrickson explores the changes that have occurred in the landscape in recent years. In “Flyfishing for Striped Bass #19, Niantic River,” 2001, Hendrickson continues his series of self-portraits engaged in fly-fishing in local waters.
Other featured artists from New England include Nancy Albert (Middletown, Conn.), Martha Armstrong (Hatfield, Mass.), Susan Brearey (Putney, Vt.), Bradley Faus (Lakeville, Conn.), Judith Cotton (Hadlyme, Conn.), Ted Hendrickson (Mystic, Conn.), Lloyd Martin (North Providence, R.I.), Craig Stockwell (Keene, N.H.), and Christine Vaillancourt (Boston).
In conjunction with “The American River,” the museum is presenting a companion exhibition, “The River’s Course: Views of Connecticut Rivers.” This group of paintings, drawn primarily from the museum’s Nineteenth and Twentieth Century collections, focuses on rivers within the state and provides a visual corollary to the contemporary works in “The American River.”
“I hope this exhibition will spark a dialogue between the past and the present,” said curator Amy Ellis. Ellis selected 27 works that explore the cultural, historical and social significance of the Connecticut, Farmington, Mystic, Thames, Lieutenant and West rivers. Ralph Earl’s “Mrs Guy Richards of New London, 1793,” Marie Theresa Gorsuch Hart’s “View on the River, Farmington, 1866;” Nelson White’s New “London Harbor, Grey Day, 1937” are among works that explore the varied perspectives of artists drawn to Connecticut’s rivers over the past two centuries.
The Florence Griswold Museum is at 96 Lyme Street. For information, 860-434-5542 or www.flogris.org.
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