Facing America: Portraits of the People and the Land

Ripin Print Gallery
February 18 - December 17, 2006

Spanning the last 75 years of photography in the United States, Facing America offers a range of viewpoints and interpretations—from idyllic and glorified images of the land to candid and unforgiving portraits of people. Works from the 1930s and '40s encompass an attitude of optimism and unity reflected in the photographs of Edward Steichen, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, and Ansel Adams. Their concentrated portrayal and search for the dignity and beauty of humankind offered subjects and themes that were embraced by many, and made magazines like Life and Fortune enormously popular. These images are shown with later photographs by Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Sternfeld and Cindy Sherman that play on the falsity of the so-called American ideal. Paralleling these changes in attitudes towards portraiture and genre is a simultaneous shift in landscape photography—from magnificent, sprawling, Western panoramas to harsher urban and industrial landscapes. This exhibition traces the physical and intellectual changes that have taken place in the last century of American photography, and examines how we continue to re-think and re-invent images individually and as a nation.

Curated by Nadiah Fellah (OC '06) with Stephen D. Borys, Curator of Western Art

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still (Blonde-Close-Up with Lamp), 1980
Gelatin silver print
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
Gift of Donald Droll in honor of Chloe Hamilton Young, 1984.18