Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment opened at Reynolda House Museum of American Art
on Feb. 19 as part of its reopening weekend of gratitude for members, first responders, and WFU faculty, staff, and students, and on Feb. 23 to the public. The traveling exhibition explores pollination as a metaphor for the interconnections between art and science, among artists, and across generations.
Taking flight from Martin Johnson Heade's unprecedented series The Gems of Brazil, Cross Pollination creates dialogues between paintings, sketches, and natural specimen collections of fellow Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Heade was influenced by and connected to this group of painters working in the nineteenth century, who in various ways all shared a fascination with art and the natural world. The relationships among these artists influenced new thinking and work by future generations, beginning with Cole and Churchs own daughters, Emily and Isabel.
Like their nineteenth-century counterparts, contemporary artists featured in this exhibition, such as Maya Lin and Roxy Paine, find inspiration in art and science. They engage in multiple disciplines and media and rely on close observations of nature to address diverse themes. These range from wonder and fascination with nature to questions about its fragility and how to balance the built and natural worlds. A number of artists explore cross-species connections, while others use shifts in scale and perspective to examine how nature is a complex cultural construction. Together, these artists offer new visions and possibilities that imagine a future on Earth based on interconnection, balance, and reciprocity.
Developed with artists and scholars across disciplines, the exhibition addresses the continuing relevance of close observations of nature and the critical interconnections between pollinators and their habitats today.
The exhibitions focus on the beauty and wonder of nature is a prominent theme reflected throughout Reynolda and its 170-acre estate. Visitors to Cross Pollination will be invited to explore their own connections between art and nature on visits to Reynoldas greater and formal gardens, which include birding and nature trails, where visitors can look for the objects and specimens featured in the exhibition, including hummingbirds.
Martin Johnson Heades lifelong passion for hummingbirds engaged both a scientific curiosity and a sense of wonder. In his intended introduction to The Gems of Brazil, he wrote: Scientific men have traveled hundreds of miles through the wild, malarious regions of the tropics in their anxiety to add to the knowledge of this seemingly insignificant but most brilliant and attractive little creature. For one who is in the least degree attuned to poetic feelings, they have a singularly fascinating power, which the subtlest mind is unable to explain, but which all who have studied them must acknowledge to have felt.
Allison Perkins, executive director, Reynolda House, and Wake Forest University associate provost for Reynolda House and Reynolda Gardens, explains, Reynolda is a unique destination intentionally designed to feed curiosity and inspire awe through its art and historic landscape. The opportunity to share a magnificent collaboration with our community and our visitors is so timely, particularly when the importance of nature, peace, and a sense of togetherness have never been more appreciable.
Cross Pollination was created by The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site, Thomas Cole National Historical Site, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark. Its tour is organized by Crystal Bridges. Support for this exhibition and its national tour is provided by Art Bridges. Additional major support has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. The exhibition has traveled to The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla., and will travel to Olana State Historic Site, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. over the coming months.
Cross Pollination was curated by Kate Menconeri, Curator & Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Julia B. Rosenbaum, Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, Bard College; former Director of Research and Publications at The Olana Partnership; William L. Coleman, Director of Collections & Exhibitions at The Olana Partnership; and Mindy N. Besaw, Curator, American Art and Director of Fellowships and Research, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Cross Pollination was developed collaboratively between the partner museums and in conversations with leading American artists, scholars, scientists, and historians.
Cross Pollination is accompanied by a full-color catalogue with essays by the curators.