The American landscape is often portrayed as a place for contentment and peace, even as it preserves a history of trauma and violence.
Visual artist Dionne Lee uses photography, collage and video to grapple with these issues of power, personal history and the nature of survival in this space. Presented in partnership with the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art is featuring Lee’s work in Dionne Lee: A Muscle Memory, which investigates how trauma informs resilience in America’s wildernesses.
The solo exhibition is on view in the Works on Paper Collection gallery from July 14 to Sept. 19.
Lee holds an MFA from the California College of the Arts and considers the complications of, and dual legacies in, photographic landscapes in her work. She looks to historical narratives to identify American soil as a site of trauma and questions how history determines the autonomy and endurance of people across time. Lee’s work also features research and physical action — including the repeated appearance of hands — to locate the body in the scenic vista. Most of the art in A Muscle Memory pre-dates the pandemic, yet Lee confronts the now ubiquitous repercussions of global uncertainty, climate change and natural disasters. She asks the crucial question: Who is best positioned to survive in these chaotic, ever-changing spaces?
“Filling out the true history of this land we now call the United States of America is an urgent duty of artists, historians, museums and the general public,” says Hamidah Glasgow, executive director and curator at the C4FAP. “Lee’s work is a critical piece of the narrative and conversation that has largely been ignored. A Muscle Memory constructs a new language of ancestral lineage, alternate relationships to the wilderness, and deep, hard-won resilience.”
In this exhibition, Lee collages and juxtaposes found images from survival manuals with silver gelatin prints of her own photographs. The analog process of this printing medium, which the artist also employs in repurposing her found images, mirrors the instinctual and tactile nature of endurance skills in the landscape. By researching traditional wilderness survival, Lee investigates how trauma and history inform everyday life, one’s ability to persevere, and the tenacity in working alongside the land.
A Muscle Memory will be accompanied by additional programming. The artist is scheduled to talk on at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 and will later join CSU poet and University Distinguished Professor Camille Dungy and photographer Odette England in conversation at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 3. The exhibition and all related programs are free to the public.
The Gregory Allicar Museum of Art invites individuals to engage with art and each other to inspire fresh perspectives and wonder. The museum is a catalyst for visual literacy and critical thinking that instills a passion for learning. For updated museum information, go to artmuseum.colostate.edu.