They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It showcases a moment in time clearer and more concisely than anything that could be written or said. Lakeview Museum’s latest exhibit, The Land Through the Lens, focuses not on events, but on time and place.
Captured on Film: America
"The Land Through the Lens is one of five exhibitions presented as highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," said Lakeview Museum President and CEO Jim Richerson. "Eighty-five vintage photographs were selected from this Smithsonian collection. The exhibition is a magnificent collection of American landscapes that span from the mid-19th into the late-20th centuries. Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, succinctly described the work in her foreword of the show’s catalog: ’Seductive beauty, promise and myth mingle with America’s history and its technological and economic progress in these landscape photographs.’ What better way to document the vastness of the country and at the same time capture the manmade marks of progress across the landscape?"
Richerson said the exhibition, which runs September 18 through December 26, is an outstanding overview of styles, techniques, and artistic virtuosity. "For example, there’s an exquisite gelatin silver print, ’The Tree, Martha’s Vineyard,’ by Aaron Siskind from 1973, which is as abstract as a painting of Matisse dancers. For Siskind, bark, leaves, and grass are used as a window into an abstract drama of light and texture transforming into visual dance.
"Doris Ullman, an early 20th century photographer and practitioner of a style known as ’pictorialism’ is represented by her platinum print from about 1925, ’Corn Shocks and Sky.’ Her soft-focus impressionistic style was the photographic rage of that era. Her sense of composition and use of light is very painterly, and the platinum process lends itself well to this type of image.
"A contemporary image from 1926 is Laura Gilpin’s ’Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs.’ Gilpin is another rare early 20th century female photographer. She found her art using the soft-focus technique in the platinum print. Gilpin pushes the bounds of this style by consciously including three planes flying overhead and distant smokestacks billowing with smoke-both signs of industrial technology making their mark upon the American landscape," he said.
A wonderful addition to the exhibition, Richerson said, is a photograph by Eadweard Muybridge. "He’s an Englishman better known for his sequential studies that became known as human and animal locomotion. In the late 19th century, Muybridge was one of scores of photographers who documented the wonders of the western states with his camera. His work in sequential photographic images became the forerunners of the next century’s motion picture industry. Contemporaries such as Charles L. Reed and Carlton Watkins are also represented in the exhibition. Muybridge’s 1872 albumen print, ’Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point,’ no doubt served as inspiration for the next generation of photographers such as Ansel Adams."
And speaking of Ansel Adams, no such photographic landscape exhibition would be complete without several prints by the renowned master of recording light, Richerson said. "His ’visualization’ method took photography to a new technological level. Adams crafted an image of light and dark in his mind before snapping the shutter and then enhanced his vision with darkroom techniques. ’Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California’ from 1944 captures his artistic genius and impeccable technological prowess within the medium of photography."
Like many of Lakeview’s exhibits, the most difficult part of curating The Land Through the Lens was due to the quantity of great pieces. "In discussing the installation with Kristan McKinsey, vice president of collections and exhibitions, and Cory Tibbits, director of exhibitions, the most challenging aspect of the exhibition for Lakeview Museum was to give each work enough room to be appreciated on its own merits," Richerson said.
The Smithsonian Connection
Richerson said these exhibitions are possible because of extensive renovation work ongoing at the American Art Museum, which has been closed to the public since 2002 and will remain closed through 2006. "For the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the exhibitions were an opportunity to keep the collections in the public eye. Lakeview Museum became aware of this exhibition opportunity shortly after it signed an affiliation agreement with the Smithsonian in August 2000. Knowing the renovations would close the American Art Museum, Smithsonian officials asked the Smithsonian Institutions Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) to create exhibitions from the collections. SITES then marketed the exhibitions to Smithsonian Affiliates, as well as other prominent American museums. It would’ve been very difficult for Lakeview Museum on its own to assemble such a far-reaching collection of photographs. Insurance alone can be quite sizable; along with specialized transport and art handlers, costs for such exhibitions can run into six figures."
Because of the affiliation, Lakeview’s participation fee was $20,125, with total show costs coming to approximately $45,000. "Through SITES, exhibition costs become more reasonable, and with negotiations being expedited by the Affiliation’s agreement, Lakeview now has increased abilities to bring such shows to Peoria and central Illinois," he said. "The museum is also very grateful to National City Bank for being a lead sponsor and for a local foundation for matching the bank’s sponsorship. Without such sponsorships, the museum couldn’t afford to showcase such excellent cultural opportunities here in the heartland. National City Bank and friends of Lakeview Museum have generously supplied the support to bring the show to central Illinois."
The Land Through the Lens is only the latest exhibit to benefit from Lakeview’s affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, which, incidentally, helps the Smithsonian as well. Richerson said, "The affiliate program is meant to get its vast collection of more than 400 million objects out into museums across the country. Lawrence Small, secretary of the Smithsonian, contends that this collection belongs to all Americans and parts of it should be available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Lakeview Museum was the 57th museum to sign such an agreement, and there are now 103 affiliates across the United States, plus one in Panama. The goal is to have at least one affiliate in each state. Lakeview remains the only museum in Illinois to be an affiliate."
He explained the process for a museum to become an affiliate includes presenting evidence to the Smithsonian regarding its professional standards and its ability to properly care and handle cultural objects. "Lakeview Museum, in order to maintain its accreditation by the American Association of Museums, already meets many of these rigorous standards. The museum has been accredited since 1973 and goes through the accreditation process every 10 years or so. Previous Smithsonian exhibitions at Lakeview included Earth 2 U, and we continue to host the hammered copper, Woodland Indian Period (1200-1400 AD) artifact, the Peoria Falcon, which was found near the banks of the Illinois River in Peoria in the mid-19th century."
In deciding which exhibits to bring to Lakeview, Richerson said the museum’s Education and Exhibitions Committee reviews ideas proposed by the museum staff. "The committee is made up of board members, associate board members, and community volunteers. They review and comment on content, educational interests, and cost factors, and their recommendations are then taken to the museum’s board for approval. The exhibition schedule is usually two and a half to three years out; we’re currently planning our 2007 schedule. Following Lens, we’ll present Art and the Animal, for which the museum has been working with Anne and David Vaughan to bring to Peoria. For the animal exhibit, we’re also partnering with the Glen Oak Zoo."
Sometimes, ideas for future exhibitions evolve from past and present shows. "While making arrangements for Lens, we made contact with Anne Adams, daughter of Ansel Adams," he said. "We’re now working with Anne, who lives in California, to have an all Ansel Adams exhibition from his famous set of prints, known as the Ansel Adams: Classic Images in the fall of 2006."
Tied to Land Through the Lens is a number of other events. "Caring For Family Heirlooms: Photographic Memories" takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m., November 10. "Kristan McKinsey, vice present of collections and exhibitions, explains the care and preservation of photographs, archival supplies available for storage, as well as the identification of major types of photography," Richerson said. "Participant may bring up to two photographs for examination and advice." The cost for members is $5 and $10 for non-members.
"Adventure Bound: A Travel Photographer’s View from around the World" is presented by Bill Chapman at 3 and 7 p.m., December 4. "This multi-projector show using a dissolve method to present the images is set to music and delivers a visually stimulating display of the art of photography," said Richerson. "It’s not just a travelogue, but also a visual journey that takes the viewer along on an intimate scenic ride into a surreal world of people and places from around the globe." The presentation is free for Lakeview Museum members and costs $3 for non-members.
Lakeview Museum gallery hours are from 10 a.m., to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday; and from noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. For more information, call 686-7000. AA!