Whose Mother Is Nature Anyway?

Carolee Schneemann, Secret Garden” (1956), oil on canvas (all photos by Annabel Keenan/Hyperallergic)

There’s something almost intoxicating when an exhibition’s message trickles down so profoundly into daily life. I’m Not Your Mother, a group show at PPOW, pokes holes in fundamental, seldom-questioned aspects of the history of western landscape painting, humanity’s relationship with nature, and the experience of being a mother. Broad as that may seem, the show focuses in on the concept of mother nature and underscores the connection between the feminization and exploitation of the environment.

The romanticized idea of nature as the mother of all beings has roots in western landscape painting, a fact made clear by the show’s inclusion of an 1877 work by the Hudson River School artist Jasper Francis Cropsey. The painting shows a fertile landscape encompassing a calm lake surrounded by luscious trees just starting to change color. An elevated bank bends into the lake, providing two figures with easy access to fish or contemplate nature’s beauty.

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