From the 19th century to the present, rural life has continued to act as a point of return for an America constantly in flux. From the first farms of New England to the contemporary Midwest, the rural conjures images of the family farm and small town life. More than a geographic designation, ‘rurality’ is here explored as an idea, shaped and reshaped by each generation.
Whether pilgrim or pioneer the journey through the wilderness led to settlement life shaped by hope for a new beginning. Even now, the rural persona continues to define the self-sustaining ideal of American independence. Such idealism has endured, although stained as well by negative associations and prejudices assumed for the rural, from racism to ignorance, to poverty.
In the mid-1800s, 80% of the United States population lived in rural places. That number is now less than 16%. Despite, or perhaps because of this massive demographic shift, rural life has remained culturally relevant, continually reappearing in art, popular culture and consumer marketing. This exhibition combines works of varied media, artistic intention and historical periods to explore artists’ diverse engagement with the rural, as complex location of celebration, change, memory and contention.