Our desire to live in harmony with nature is ultimately what will determine our future.
Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director, Nasher Museum.
Our identities and natural environments are intertwined
Spirit in the Land is a contemporary art exhibition that examines today’s urgent ecological concerns from a cultural perspective, demonstrating how intricately our identities and natural environments are intertwined. Through their artwork, thirty artists show us how rooted in the earth our most cherished cultural traditions are, how our relationship to land and water shapes us as individuals and communities. The works reflect the restorative potential of our connection to nature and exemplify how essential both biodiversity and cultural diversity are to our survival.
These artists explore the ways in which our inner spaces mirror our outer ones in works that both celebrate the profound beauty of our world and mourn its loss, and with it, vanishing histories of people and place.
As the battles against climate change are often most critical for marginalized communities— environmental justice is social and racial justice—the exhibition and catalogue center the voices of artists who approach ecological awareness through a close attention to the communities most negatively affected. Acting as environmental stewards, the artists reclaim and revitalize our understanding of nature as a repository of cultural memory, a place of sanctuary, a site of resistance, and a source of spiritual nourishment and healing. As land and water provide a sense of belonging and community, the exhibition illustrates our interdependence with all life on Earth.
Spirit in the Land has its roots in North America, with shoots reaching into the Caribbean. While these artists investigate natural environments under stress, the exhibition presents a belief in the possibility of transformation and regeneration. Our desire to live in harmony with nature is ultimately what will determine our future.
This exhibition is organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director, Nasher Museum.
Carrie Mae Weems, Box Spring in Tree from the series Sea Islands, 1992. Gelatin silver print, artist's proof 1, 20 x 20 inches (50.8 x 50.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Wangechi Mutu, MamaRay, 2020. Bronze, edition 1/3, 65 x 144 x 192 inches (165.1 x 365.8 x 487.7 cm). Commissioned by and collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Gift of Mike and Joan Kahn in honor of Douglas and Stefanie Kahn, 2020.18.1.
This article features four videos of artists whose work is part of the exhibition Spirit in the Land. Artists María Berrío, Mel Chin, Alexa Kleinbard and Jim Roche are all inspired by nature in their work. In each...
Spirit in the Land (Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, $29.95, 2023), the catalogue which accompanies the art exhibition of the same name...
Lead support for Spirit in the Land is provided by the Ford Foundation.
Major support for Spirit in the Land is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
At the Nasher, Spirit in the Land is supported by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; The Duke Endowment; the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Exhibitions; the Frank Edward Hanscom Endowment Fund; the Janine and J. Tomilson Hill Family Fund; Katie Thorpe Kerr and Terrance I. R. Kerr; Alexandria and Kevin Marchetti; Parker & Otis; Lisa Lowenthal Pruzan and Jonathan Pruzan; and Caroline and Arthur Rogers.