The exhibition travels in 2021 (see full schedule below); a VR experience is available from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The Olana Partnership, Olana State Historic Site, and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site have announced that “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment” will open on June 12 at the two historic sites – the only opportunity to see the unique presentation of the exhibition in New York, in the landscapes and historic spaces that so dramatically influenced and continue to influence the evolution of art in America. For the first time in over two decades, 16 paintings from the influential series of hummingbirds and habitats – The Gems of Brazil (1863-64) – by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) will be on view in New York for public audiences. The project uses the metaphor of cross-pollination inspired by Heade’s paintings to explore interconnections in art and science, between artists, and across the 19th and 21st centuries. Paintings, sketches, sculpture, and natural history specimens will be displayed in provocative juxtapositions.
Artist Martin Johnson Heade has long been associated with the Hudson River School of landscape painting, which is characterized by the epic landscapes of the artists Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and Frederic Church (1826-1900). Heade, though, with his series The Gems of Brazil, was making a different kind of “landscape” that magnified the intricate operations within nature itself. Heade traveled to Brazil in 1863, so that he could study the hummingbirds in their natural habitat. Heade’s focus in The Gems and his related writing, which decries the overhunting of bird species, aligns with the proto-environmentalism of Thomas Cole, who wrote against deforestation in his own time. Heade’s own Brazilian journey was inspired by Frederic Church’s travels in Latin America. The environmental awareness and advocacy of these 19th-century artists connect thought and conversations taking place today, as concern for preservation and protection of the environment reaches critical urgency.
The exhibition will also include paintings by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, as well as botanical works on both paper and porcelain by Emily Cole, Cole’s daughter, and Isabel Charlotte Church, Church’s daughter, which will be shown together here for the first time. The exhibition highlights natural specimen collections amassed by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, including Cole’s mineral and herbarium collections and a sampling of the Church family’s extensive collection of bird eggs.
“Cross Pollination” positions these 19th-century artists in a call and response with 21st-century American artists, whose works engage contemporary issues related to biodiversity, habitat protection, and environmental sustainability. The contemporary artists are Rachel Berwick, Nick Cave, Mark Dion, Richard Estes, Juan Fontanive, Jeffrey Gibson, Paula Hayes, Patrick Jacobs, Maya Lin, Flora C. Mace, Vik Muniz, Portia Munson, Lisa Sanditz, Emily Sartor, Sayler/Morris, Dana Sherwood, Jean Shin, Rachel Sussman, and Jeff Whetstone.
The joint project will be presented simultaneously as one exhibition at both Olana State Historic Site in Hudson, NY, and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, from June 12 to October 31, 2021. The two historic sites are connected by the Hudson River Skywalk, a scenic walkway across the Hudson River – with sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains – that opened in June 2019. “Cross Pollination” is the second major collaborative project between Olana and the Thomas Cole Site and builds upon the success of the inaugural “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home” exhibition in 2015.