Imprinting the West

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Throughout the 19th century as Americans pushed west toward the Pacific, they were fascinated by westward expansion in North America. Printed imagery — lithographs and engravings — played an important role in the dissemination of knowledge and understanding about the West and its inhabitants.

In September and October 2017, visitors to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and Garis Gallery of the American West, in Duncan, OK, will be able to view “Imprinting the West: Manifest Destiny, Real and Imagined,” a Mid-America Arts Alliance traveling exhibit. It opens Sept. 1 and will be at the Heritage Center until Oct. 20. It features 48 hand-colored engravings and lithographs that explore these depictions and the influence the artists had on the perception of the wild west.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchased the expansive territory, known as Louisiana, from Napoleon, King of France. This transaction extended the young country’s boundaries by 828,000 square miles, including all of present-day Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and parts of Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The Louisiana Purchase set the stage for exploration, migration and settlement, in addition to struggle and conflict. Convinced that God wanted the country to extend to the Pacific Coast — the idea called “Manifest Destiny” — scores of Americans, including painters and printmakers, moved west.

The westward expansion in the 19th century was closely intertwined with the experiences of the native people. The exhibition’s artists, including George Catlin and Frederic Remington, sought to document the indigenous people of west along with migration to the west. Artists often accompanied governmental geographical surveys and created images to illustrate official publications. Others sold engravings to popular periodicals, such as Harper’s Weekly, or to the mass market. Whether real or imagined, these lithographs and engravings informed the rest of America and the world about Native Americans and America’s western landscapes and its natural resources.

“This exhibit provides us an opportunity to integrate it with our regular educational programming, therefore exposing students, teachers and other guests to western art history beyond what they would normally see when they visit,” said Toni Hopper, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator. “We already have pieces in the Garis Gallery by George Catlin, Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt. Some of the lithos and engravings in this exhibit are by these same artists. This show will add another visual tool to the experience we want students and guests to have. Our educational department, in the past, has incorporated lessons on George Catlin art in the interactive field trips. Also, this exhibit will be on display during our creative writing program, “Saddle Up & Write: Creative Writing in Response to Art.” It is an award-winning program and available to area sixth graders. We are entering the eighth year of this session.” With exhibits such as “Imprinting the West – “ we always extend an invitation to area art teachers to bring their students for an educational tour. We regularly get classes from Cameron University –Duncan campus, for these exhibits.

The Heritage Center is open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. There is an admission fee; but Title I schools can book a field trip by calling Leah Mulkey, (580) 252-6692. There is no charge for Title I students and their teachers.

Please visit CTHC online at: www.onthechisholmtrail.com

Imprinting the West: Manifest Destiny, Real and Imagined is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, and curated by Dr. Randall Griffey, associate curator of modern American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at www.maaa.org and www.eusa.org.

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