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"The American River" and "The River's Course: Views of Connecticut Rivers"


Along the unspoiled banks of the Lieutenant River, in Old Lyme, Connecticut, the Florence Griswold Museum's new Krieble Gallery is the perfect site for an exhibition that celebrates rivers and the significant role they have in history and in our imagination. The American River, on view through January 4, 2004, is a national juried exhibition organized by the Great River Arts Institute in Walpole, New Hampshire. Nationally recognized curators selected 40 artworks from over 1,600 submissions. Augmenting these pieces are 12 works by invited artists. Rivers from across America are represented. "This is the first contemporary show to be held in the Museum's new gallery," said museum director Jeff Andersen. "It offers our audience an exciting and challenging look at visual responses to the river."

In conjunction with The American River, the Museum presents a companion exhibition, The River's Course: Views of Connecticut Rivers. This group of paintings, drawn primarily from the Museum's nineteenth and twentieth-century collections, focuses on rivers within the State. Together these exhibitions invite comparisons between artists of the past and their counterparts today. Viewers find that contemporary artists, while continuing to draw inspiration from rivers, are also still concerned about the impact of humans on nature, a compelling theme for nearly two centuries ago.


The American River

Each artist in The American River is represented by a single work that was inspired in some way by the theme of the American River. Some of the art focuses on the impact encroaching settlement and industrialization has had on the river and the environment. Other works are responses to paintings by nineteenth-century American landscape painters such as Thomas Cole. Still others are purely aesthetic meditations on the place the river holds in the artist's creative imagination. The exhibition includes paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings - both representational and abstract - which explore the river's place in the American psyche, as well as its practical importance in industry, transportation, and recreation.

New York artist Stephen Hannock's The Oxbow, after Church, after Cole, Flooded (1994), is related to the Hudson River School in composition and content. Hannock's Oxbow is from the same vantage point as an earlier work by Thomas Cole. Hannock updates Cole's depiction of the contrast between wild nature and cultivated landscape by showing Interstate 91 cutting through the land. Steve Graber of Baldwin City, Kansas created a charcoal drawing called Marlowe Field (2001) that is photographic in effect. The generalized view of clouds and land with water snaking through it creates tension with the specificity of the title, mirroring the tension between the subjectivity of a drawing and the presumed objectivity of a photograph. M. Whiting's Riparian Rights, 2000 is the most politically charged piece in the exhibition. The artist from Waterloo, Iowa raises questions about privileges associated with ownership of American waterways.

Judith Cotton lives in New York, but spends time in Hadlyme, CT on the Connecticut River. Her experience with the restorative qualities of life on the river inspired a series of paintings of rowers, one of which is included in this exhibition. Ted Hendrickson explores the changes that have occurred in the landscape in recent years. In Flyfishing for Striped Bass #19, Niantic River (2001), Hendrickson continues his series of self-portraits engaged in fly-fishing in local waters. Other featured artist from New England, including Nancy Albert (Middletown, CT), Martha Armstrong (Hatfield, MA), Susan Brearey (Putney, VT), Bradley Faus (Lakeville, CT), Judith Cotton (Hadlyme, CT), Ted Hendrickson (Mystic, CT), Lloyd Martin (N. Providence, RI), Craig Stockwell (Keene, NH), and Christine Vaillancourt (Boston, MA). Jurors for "The American River" were Linda Simmons, curator emeritus of American art at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Jeff Rosenheim, curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Carl Belz, editor-in-chief, Art New England, and director emeritus of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.

The Great River Arts Institute is a non-profit organization that supports the visual and literary arts in New England. Based in Walpole, New Hampshire, the Institute brings well-known artists and writers to New Hampshire to teach there.


The River's Course: Views of Connecticut Rivers

The broad network of rivers that winds through Connecticut has long been the subject of American art. To highlight the significant role rivers have played in this State, the Florence Griswold Museum will present a companion exhibition of river views primarily drawn from its own collection. The River's Course: Views of Connecticut Rivers provides a visual corollary to the contemporary works in The American River. "I hope this exhibition will spark a dialogue between the past and the present," says Curator Amy Ellis, who selected 27 works that explore the cultural, historical and social significance of the Connecticut, Farmington, Mystic, Thames, Lieutenant, and West rivers. Ralph Earl's Mrs. Guy Richards of New London, 1793, Marie Theresa Gorsuch Hart's View on the River, Farmington, 1866; Nelson White's New London Harbor, Grey Day, 1937 are among works that explore the varied perspectives of artists drawn to Connecticut's rivers over the past two centuries.


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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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