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Sheldon to house collection honoring writer Barry Lopez
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Sheldon Museum of Art will be the repository for the Home Ground Collection, a group of more than 90 works donated by 50 American photographers to honor the writer Barry Lopez, who died in 2020 at age 75.
For more than five decades, Lopez wrote about the landscape in lyrical prose that offered a vivid and passionate account of humankind’s relationship with the natural world. Best known for “Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape,” which received the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1986, Lopez was the author of dozens of essays and works of fiction and nonfiction, including the recently released “Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World.”
Toby Jurovics, director of the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art and Environment, praised the photographers who came together to honor Lopez’s life and influence.
“When the Home Ground Collection was first proposed, the response was immediate and enthusiastic,” he said. “Barry was a guidepost for so many writers and artists, and this collection is but one reflection of the affection and respect of his friends and colleagues.”
Lopez’s careful and conscientious descriptions of place provided inspiration for many artists who found a connection with his intimate understanding of the world. Virginia Beahan, one of the photographers who donated work to the Home Ground Collection, carried a copy of “Arctic Dreams” with her for years. Noting Lopez’s meticulous attention to detail, she said, “I felt like he was with me, using his version of a view camera — or I was with him, as he studied and thought about and tried to make sense of the world.”
In addition to Beahan, photographers who donated prints in honor of Lopez include Robert Adams, Barbara Bosworth, Lois Conner, Linda Connor, Peter de Lory, Terry Evans, Frank Gohlke, Emmet Gowin, David T. Hanson, Alex Harris, Ron Jude, Mark Klett, David Maisel, Laura McPhee, Mary Peck, Edward Ranney, Mark Ruwedel, Joel Sternfeld, Bob Thall and Geoff Winningham.
The collection marks the realization of Lopez’s long-held desire to create a photographic companion to “Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape,” a reader’s dictionary of regional landscape terms that he compiled with Debra Gwartney in 2006. In that volume, 45 American writers — William deBuys, Robert Haas, Barbara Kingsolver, Kim Stafford, Arthur Sze and Joy Williams among them — created more than 850 original definitions for words that describe American lands and waters. They considered familiar and evocative terms such as “alluvial fan,” “basin and range,” “blue hole,” “floodplain” and “mesa.”
In turn, the photographers in the Home Ground Collection sought resonances between these phrases and their own work. Prompted by terms such as “badlands,” “confluence,” “hanging valley,” “sawtooth” and “swale” that evoke both specific locations and the distinctive character of American topography, their photographs trace the shape of the landscapes Americans call home and the ones that fill their imaginations. Together, these places form a history of America and its aspirations and desires.
Sheldon Museum of Art and the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art and Environment have organized an exhibition of the Home Ground Collection titled “From Here to the Horizon: Photographs in Honor of Barry Lopez.” The exhibition, which will have its inaugural presentation at Sheldon from Jan. 27 through June 30, 2023, is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalog, with contributions from Debra Gwartney, Robert Macfarlane and Toby Jurovics.