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Our Land

Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery

The majestic views of unspoiled landscapes offered by our country’s national parks have inspired countless artists. This August marks the centennial of the National Park Service, established to conserve natural and historic scenery, leaving it “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” In celebration of this landmark anniversary, the Akron Art Museum exhibits photographs of our land—parks and historic sites belonging to all United States citizens—by artists including Ansel Adams, Carleton E. Watkins, Marilyn Bridges, Masumi Hayashi and Robert Glenn Ketchum, among others.

Many artists in Our Land composed their images with both aesthetics and advocacy in mind; photography has been instrumental in lobbying government officials for parkland preservation for decades. Prints by Carleton E. Watkins, such as The Half Dome 5000 ft. View from Glacier pt. Yosemite, promoted the passage of President Lincoln’s 1864 bill setting Yosemite Valley aside as a protected wilderness area, a precursor to the national parks. Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photographs of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area helped convince lawmakers to grant the land national park status in 2000, while drawing attention to the natural beauty of our region.

The National Park Service preserves monuments and historic sites, such as the National Mall, the Manzanar War Relocation Center and the Conical Mounds, in order to educate the American public. Marilyn Bridges photographs human-made markings as she pilots her plane high above the earth, capturing both sacred and secular memorials including the Washington Monument and the Native American effigy mounds in Iowa. Masumi Hayashi offers her viewers a solemn reflection on a shameful chapter of our nation’s history. More than 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent were forcefully relocated to the land depicted in her panoramic photo-collage of the Manzanar Historic Site.

In addition to work from artists based across the country, Our Land also features contemporary photography by artist in Northeast Ohio, demonstrating that National Park Service land continues to spur new aesthetic explorations.

Our Land is organized by the Akron Art Museum and will be on view from August 6, 2016 through February 12, 2017.