EXHIBITION 6 MAY 2023: Women Reframe American Landscape: Susie Barstow & Her Circle / Contemporary Practices at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Women Reframe American Landscape: Susie Barstow & Her Circle / Contemporary Practices at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site coincides with the publication of two new titles in the Northern Lights series – Susie M. Barstow: Redefining the Hudson River School and Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art.

These titles launch at a critical moment in contemporary culture, contributing to a broader movement underway among scholars, museums, collectors, and the wider world of cultural heritage to make evident and contextualize historically the contributions of women artists.


The exhibition will open on May 6 and run through October 29, 2023. It will subsequently travel to the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT, from November 16, 2023 to March 31, 2024.


Illuminating the artistic contributions and perspectives of women, Women Reframe American Landscape: Susie Barstow & Her Circle/ Contemporary Practices is a two-part exhibition – and accompanying publication – that reinserts the accomplished 19th-century American artist Susie Barstow (1836-1923) into the history of the Hudson River School of landscape painting and presents work by contemporary artists who expand and challenge how we think about “land” and “landscape” today. The internationally acclaimed contemporary artists include: Teresita Fernández, Guerrilla Girls, Marie Lorenz, Tanya Marcuse, Mary Mattingly, Ebony G. Patterson, Anna Plesset, Jean Shin, Wendy Red Star, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Cecilia Vicuña, Kay WalkingStick, and Saya Woolfalk. Featuring artwork from across generations, the exhibition launches an expanded narrative around land and art that challenges and strongly recenters women in the canon of American landscape art.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History at Towson University, and author of our volume on Susie M. Barstow; Kate Menconeri, Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Contemporary Art, and Fellowship at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and Amanda Malmstrom, Associate Curator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.


Susie Barstow & Her Circle

The 19th-century portion of the exhibition features the first major retrospective and deep dive into the work and life of Susie Barstow (1836-1923) and also includes such artists in her circle as Julie Hart Beers, Fidelia Bridges, Charlotte Buell Coman, Eliza Greatorex, Mary Josephine Walters, and Laura Woodward – accomplished 19th-century women artists who have previously been excluded from the history of the art movement that Thomas Cole founded, now known as the Hudson River School of landscape painting. This exhibition seeks to question the prevailing narrative that it was a male-only art movement and to rewrite the canon. Barstow was an extraordinarily talented, professional artist, and more than 100 of her paintings have been documented. In addition to hiking and painting the White Mountains, Catskill Mountains, and Adirondack Mountains, she embarked on multiple trips around the world. In her lifetime, she exhibited and sold her work alongside Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Robert Duncanson, and Sanford Gifford, as well as the other women artists in this exhibition. It is long past due to bring forward this accomplished artist. 


Contemporary Practices

In conversation with Susie Barstow’s historic work, Contemporary Practices presents works by contemporary artists who move beyond conventional landscape painting and open up an exploration of land through expansive perspectives and art practices. The featured artists are internationally acclaimed and include Teresita Fernández, Guerrilla Girls, Marie Lorenz, Tanya Marcuse, Mary Mattingly, Ebony G. Patterson, Anna Plesset, Jean Shin, Wendy Red Star, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Cecilia Vicuña, Kay WalkingStick, and Saya Woolfalk. 

The contemporary artists expand and challenge how we think about “land” and “landscape” today. At the Thomas Cole Site, these works will be sited within and in response to the 19th-century artist’s home, studio, and grounds. The exhibition will include a new work by the Guerrilla Girls, a new outdoor sculpture by Jean Shin, an interactive Ecotopian Library by Mary Mattingly, works on canvas by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Kay WalkingStick, and special site-specific installations by Teresita Fernández, Marie Lorenz, Ebony G. Patterson, and Saya Woolfalk. It will also bring together Anna Plesset’s work about Sarah Cole (1805-1857), with the original paintings by the 19th-century artist who called this site home.

The project’s exploration of land takes place in the context of the home and studios of Thomas Cole, the artist best known today as the founder of the major art movement launched shortly after the formation of the United States, now known as the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Cole was an early environmentalist who advocated for balance between the built and natural worlds. He used his paintbrush and his pen to speak out against escalating development and deforestation that was clearing the way for railroads and expanding industries, such as the tanneries, iron foundries, and mills that were proliferating throughout the Catskill Mountains in the 1830s and 40s.