Philip Juras: The Southern Frontier Landscapes Inspired by Bartrams Travels is on view at the Morris Museum of Art
from May 28 through August 14, 2011. The exhibition includes more than sixty works, nearly half of them studio paintings; smaller plein-air pieces, produced on-site, round out the show.
Remarkably, Philip Juras, a wonderfully skilled painter in the service of a higher ideal, has here made us aware of all that weve lostthe Edenic America that brave, curious, and somewhat foolhardy adventurers like William Bartram explored in hopes of capturing their own first visions of a continent they thought untouched by the hand of man. They were wrong, of course; the landscape had in fact been managed from time immemorial, but the simple awe felt by Bartram was both palpable and contagious, said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art.
As Philip Juras has noted, The paintings in this exhibition allow a viewer to experience something that I would argue is not easy to envision in the modern South: a glimpse of the presettlement Southern frontier. While there are written descriptions of that landscape, particularly by the eighteenth-century naturalist William Bartram, almost no visual images exist that document the Southern wilderness before European settlement. Juras himselfa trained landscape architect, as well as a highly proficient artistcan and has provided those images through his own paintings, bringing, perhaps for the very first time, the long lost Southern frontier to twenty-first-century eyes. Juras has enabled contemporary viewers to experience the South in much the same way that nineteenth-century American landscape painters saw the Western frontier, which they introduced to the residents of a rapidly industrializing nation.
The majority of the images in the exhibition depict remnant natural landscapes that are still to be seen across the Southeast. These landscapes exhibit many of the qualities that Bartram encountered and documented in his travels 230 years ago.
Juras came to know these places and their unique attributes through the research he undertook for his masters degree thesis on the pre-settlement South in 1997. His involvement with the Nature Conservancy and his love of nature and travel have also supported this body of work as it has evolved over the years. This background has allowed him to portray environments described by Bartram that no longer exist, such as the prairies of Alabama and the Keowee Valley of South Carolina.
Juras, a resident of Athens, Georgia, earned an undergraduate degree in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia, where he also earned a masters degree in landscape architecture. His paintings have been the subject of solo exhibitions at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill; the University of Georgia and the Aurum Studios, Athens; and the Carolina Galleries, Charleston.