The CrossCurrents Hudson River Project
Deadline for submissions: March 1 for those interested in presenting at the May 6 conference. May 6 for those interested in pulication in the forthcoming book.
Conference Date: May 6, 2006
Place: The Museum of Biblical Art, New York City
The project begins with a retrospective look at the group of artists who became the first genuinely American art movement, the Hudson River School. The inspiration and vision of these artists takes us back to an earlier period in American history -- before the Civil War and the Scopes trail -- when science and theology were seen as allies in the study and appreciation of the natural world, and when the Hudson River and its surroundings, were seen not only as an example of the beauty of the American landscape, but as evidence of the glory of God. For these artists, the regenerative and transcendental qualities of nature were self-evident.
In the intervening years, of course, there was an ever widening gap between the natural and the supernatural; science and religion came to be seen by many as entering a state of war with each other, nature came to be viewed, not so much as a source of inspiration, but a resource to be exploited. Arguably, the abstract art of the twentieth century lost its footing in the natural world, and the wider culture engaged in a period of untrammeled industrial development. Not only did the landscape art of the Hudson River school fall out of favor, the river itself became a toxic waste dump. The down side of rapid technological development was a river no longer safe for swimming and fishing, its tributaries becoming open sewers. And many of the waterfront communities along its shores fell into a decades long decline.
The promise of the twenty first century is not so much a return to the romanticism of the 19th century, but a new ecological consciousness through which human communities learn to take responsibility for the health of the natural world, and, in turn, nature once again becomes a source of inspiration and health. Already, the river is being renewed, and the villages, towns and cities of the region are being revitalized. Even New York City is rediscovering itself as one of the world’s great archipelagos. This recovery can be illustrated not only by a renewed interest in the original Hudson River artists, but in several contemporary painters, photographers, and writers whose will be referenced and exhibited as part of our program.
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