A new exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art features hundreds of works inspired by the gleaming waters and craggy mountains of Lake Tahoe.
Albert Bierstadt painted them. Ansel Adams photographed them. The gleaming waters and craggy mountains of Lake Tahoe have inspired countless others. Most recently, they have also inspired a comprehensive exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, TAHOE: A Visual History.
The show, which runs through January 10, presents more than 400 objects spanning two centuries — everything from paintings and photographs to historical maps and an extensive selection of Washoe baskets. The baskets, many by famed weaver Louisa Keyser, represent the peak of Native American craft indigenous to the region. The maps, equally practical and poetic in their expression of geography when drawn by the likes of Charles Preuss, drew eager immigrants to the Lake Tahoe area long after the Gold Rush peaked in 1852.
Other items reflect major historical trends. Nineteenth-century paintings by Bierstadt, Edwin Deakin, and Thomas Hill celebrate the notion of Manifest Destiny with idealized landscapes. Works of pictorialism, tonalism, and early modernism point to the rise of Tahoe’s resort culture, which attracted countless artists from varying backgrounds and aesthetics. Still drawn by the area’s beauty, contemporary artists such as Helen Mayer Harrison, Newton Harrison, and Maya Lin create works inspired by the environmental movement that’s galvanized Tahoe residents to take a stance against water pollution and commercial development.
Such an effort is long overdue and much needed, says Ann M. Wolfe, senior curator of the Nevada Museum of Art and author of TAHOE: A Visual History. “Many books and museum exhibitions have been devoted to the art of America’s most scenic and iconic landscapes,” she says. “Thanks to such scholarship, it is easy to conjure mental images of Yosemite, Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon. The same cannot be said for the vicinity of Lake Tahoe. Recording this art history allows us — and future generations — to celebrate and critically examine the region’s important contributions to the broader culture.”
From the January 2016 issue.