This Land

Samuel H. Kress Foundation Gallery, 407

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”

Woody Guthrie, 1940

The selections from the Museum’s collection that appear in This Land demonstrate the power of national icons and the resonance of local and regional places that nurture popular notions of home sweet home. Faith in these icons and ideologies has long informed the project of conquest and progress called America. This great experiment, the establishment of a nation governed for and by the people, was forged in revolution, tested as the country expanded westward, tainted by the displacement of indigenous peoples, and threatened by civil war.

In concert with the adjacent exhibition Forms of ThoughtThis Land investigates the realm of intangible ideas, like that of nationhood, which have been made manifest by artists throughout time and across cultures. Whereas Forms of Thought delves into artwork often characterized as “religious,” and “transcendent,” This Land brings us back to Earth. Anchored by Sanford Gifford’s breathtaking Hudson River School landscape, Morning in the Adirondacks, this exhibition prompts consideration of westward expansion, manifest destiny, and all that drives us to imagine that heaven is a place on earth.

Selected images