Thomas Cole, “Dream of Arcadia,” circa 1838, oil on canvas, 38-5/8-by-62-3/4 inches. (Courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

light pointHudson River painter Thomas Cole captured the raw beauty of the land, imbuing his canvases with the power and awe of nature.

Cole’s towering “Dream of Arcadia,” on loan from the Denver Art Museum, began welcoming visitors to the Albuquerque Art Museum on Oct. 8. Cole’s landscapes launched the Hudson River School and changed the course of American art.

His masterpiece is a bit teasing to introduce guests to three contemporary exhibitions of artists reflecting on their own relationship with the earth. An exhibition of works from Cole’s studio will follow on November 19.

“Becoming Land” by Nicola López and Paula Wilson reveals each artist’s interpretation of New Mexico. Born in Chicago, Wilson now lives in Carrizozo. López was born in Santa Fe and lives in New York.

Wilson recently discovered the yucca moth and its symbiotic relationship with the yucca plant. In “Yucca Rising”, the monumental figure gazes at her own body which has become part of the landscape and the life cycle of the yucca. The moth is his only pollinator and appears regularly in his prints and fabric installations. López’s ‘Never Wild’ print shows a futuristic ribbed structure surrounded by ghostly plants on a royal blue background.

“They don’t see themselves as separate from the land,” said Albuquerque museum curator Josie Lopez. “They see themselves as part of that.”

This attention is something both artists share with Cole, who often visited the same scenes over and over to paint them, watching them change with the seasons and human interactions.

Internationally acclaimed for her work exploring the human body, the natural world, fable, and the cosmos, artist Kiki Smith’s “From the Creek” features works inspired by New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Smith’s installation includes massive tapestries and sculptures woven with a menagerie of animals – birds, wolves, deer and pollinators – many of which are native to the Catskill land.

“It’s meant to be an immersive environment,” Lopez said. “She wants people to walk through and experience the Catskills as she experiences them.”

The exhibition develops from Smith’s installation created in Cole’s home and studio in Catskill, New York. Living about “a mile and two centuries apart”, the two share a deep connection to place, as well as a fascination with the cycles of life and the fragility of the natural world.

Chinese photographer Shi Guorui visited the sites of Cole’s works and created a camera obscura, a dark room with a small hole or lens in one side through which an image is projected onto a wall or table opposite the hole.

“He saw himself retracing the footsteps of Thomas Cole and using a completely different medium to engage with the landscape,” Lopez said.

The exhibit was originally presented at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in 2019 and curated by Kate Menconeri.

Guorui visited museums across the country to view Cole’s work, pored over the artist’s journals and essays, and traveled to the Catskill Mountains to make giant camera obscura photographs of the locations. that Cole painted nearly 200 years ago. The iconic locations Cole painted remain strong and strong enough to be recorded in Guorui’s carefully composed time-lapse photographs.

“One thing that connects them all,” Lopez said, “is how each of the artists views the earth in different ways.”

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