New exhibition examines the American West through modern art

An award-winning exhibition that challenges cultural and historical notions of the American West is now on view at UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

“Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea”, examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a broader and more inclusive view of the region. The show will continue until December 18.

Exhibit organizers say ‘Many Wests’ offers an opportunity to examine past misconceptions, challenge racist clichés and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the states. -United. Working in a variety of media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured in the exhibition shed light on a nuanced and multifaceted history.

Among the many voices and communities highlighted in the exhibition, “Many Wests” features works by black, white, female, male, LGBTQ+, Native American, Asian American, and Latino artists. Participating artists V. Maldonado, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, and Marie Watt will give public artist talks on campus while the exhibit is on view.

The exhibit is co-organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four nationally accredited art museums located in some of the fastest growing cities and states in the Western United States. It is the culmination of a five-year exhibition partnership made possible by the Art Bridges Foundation.

“The development of ‘Many Wests’ reflects partner museum conversations about the responsibilities of collecting institutions to the artists, communities and cultures they serve, and the role of the visual arts in shaping public perception,” said Danielle Knapp, McCosh Curator at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. “The exhibition argues that the art of the American West is not limited to specific images or stories.

The exhibit is bilingual with labels in English and Spanish and organized into three sections: “Caretakers”, “Memory Makers” and “Boundary Breakers”. These overarching themes illuminate the different ways artists create contrasting visions of life and history in the American West.

It is part of a series of exhibitions of American art created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. The multi-city national tour began at the Boise Art Museum.

After his time at the UO, “Many Wests” will travel to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. “Many Wests” was shortlisted for the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Excellence in Exhibition Award.

By Debbie Williamson Smith, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

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