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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), the Akron Art Museum is proud to present Our Land, an exhibition of photographs which depict landscapes under the agency's stewardship. Our Land, which opens Aug. 6, includes early images made before the establishment of the NPS, as well as complex remembrances and explorations of sites protected because they convey a vital sense of our national identity, such as the National Mall and the Manzanar War Relocation Center.
"Our Land features plenty of stunning scenery, but the exhibition is more than pictures of beautiful landscapes" Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister explains. "When selecting photographs, I sought to convey the variety of sites under the management of the National Park Service. Each artist depicts our shared land through his or her own vision."
In 1865, Carleton Watkins' pictures of Yosemite's glacier-carved peaks and conifer-lined valleys helped convince lawmakers to set the region aside, protecting it from development. Watkins used pack mules to transport 2,000 pounds of photography equipment--including a dark tent and chemicals--75 miles from Mariposa, California into the Yosemite Valley. A little over four decades later, the United States Congress founded the National Park Service (NPS), established to conserve natural scenery "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." As the agency modernized it expanded to include recreational areas, battlefields, monuments and historic sites. Masumi Hayashi's large-scale photo collage documents one such place, the Manzanar War Relocation Center, which became a national historic site in 1992. The United States interned more than 110,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps, including the camp at Manzanar, during World War II.
In 2015, 307 million people visited the 412 sites that comprise the National Park Service. Artists have documented this activity, turning their lenses on the impact of those visitors. Ricky Rhodes photographed Crater Lake National Park, capturing signs of the tourism the park service depends upon and its sometimes uneasy coexistence with the natural world. Richard Misrach's photographs reveal the artist's ecological concerns. Lake Mead by Starlight documents light pollution, capturing the paths of airplanes taking off and landing in Las Vegas against the backdrop of starlight. "Beauty," says the artist, "can be a very powerful conveyor of difficult ideas. It engages people when they might otherwise look away."
Our Land features photographs by Ansel Adams, Eugene O. Goldbeck, Michael A. Smith, Carleton Watkins, Richard Misrach, Masumi Hiyashi, Richard Lewis, Marilyn Bridges, Wendy Watriss, Andrew McAllister, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Ricky Rhodes and Bob Herbst.
Our Land is organized by the Akron Art Museum and will be on view through Feb. 12, 2017.
The museum is at One South High in downtown Akron. For details, call 330-376-9185 or visit www.akronartmuseum.org online.