The SMC Museum Welcomes a New Exhibit - Aesthetic Forces: Nature in the Modern California Landscape, 1915-2015

Whether you’re an artist, art aficionado, or a budding art enthusiast, you’re invited to enjoy a new exhibit at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art (SMCMoA). 

Aesthetic Forces: Nature in the Modern California Landscape, 1915-2015 opens on February 10 and runs through July 11, 2021. A first viewing and guided exploration of the exhibit will be held on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. Facilitated by Britt Royer, SMCMoA’s art historian and curator, the live one-hour discussion will cover topics including process, artwork selection, and themes that guide the exhibition’s vision.

The exhibit explores the philosophical concepts of sublime and picturesque through 100 years of California landscapes and art practices. “In the 18th and 19th centuries, artists adapted the philosophical concepts of the sublime and the picturesque to evoke moods and stir sensations in art viewers through a landscape painting’s aesthetic experience,” said Royer. The sublime referred to a looming sensation—a lurking threat and thrill, alluded to as a natural cataclysmic phenomena through darkened space or vast empty terrain. The picturesque, literally meaning picture-like, referred to a pleasing sensation—ideal tranquility in nature, often depicted as a manicured garden or a compositionally balanced vista.” During the 20th century, these concepts fell out of practice as Modernism flourished. “Despite this occurrence, aesthetic approaches to landscape painting remained, and the roots of the sublime and picturesque lingered and continued to adapt in the genre of landscape,” added Royer.

Drawing from SMCMoA’s permanent collection of paintings, prints, and photographs, Aesthetic Forces: Nature in the Modern California Landscape, 1915-2015 is described by Royer as an exhibit that “Folds the cultural and environmental influence of world fairs, wars, urbanization, political shifts, lifestyle perceptions, and natural disasters into the formation of how land and nature generate mood and sensation through aesthetic forces.”

As with most SMCMoA exhibits, faculty are welcome to take advantage of the exhibits and integrate the various concepts and themes into their teachings. “This exhibition explores a variety of themes that may speak to faculty interests as well as curriculum, teachings, and practices,” said Royer. Some of the gallery themes and concepts include: modernity and abstraction, environmental impacts depicted in art, critique of social systems and structures in the West, the concept of nature, and more.

To attend Aesthetic Forces: Nature in the Modern California Landscape, 1915-2015 on Feb. 11 for a first viewing and guided exploration, register here.

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Image Credit Line: detail left, Milton Komisar (1935) Techtonic Plates, 2003, Acrylic and concrete on canvas, Gift of the artist, Saint Mary's College Museum of Art Permanent Collection. [4.2006.2] detail right, William Keith (1838–1911) High Sierra Canyon (c. 1900–1905) Oil on canvas, Gift of Benjamin H. Lehman, Saint Mary's College Museum of Art Permanent Collection [0-91].