The Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be the repository for the Home Ground Collection, a group of more than 90 works donated by 50 American photographers in honor of writer Barry Lopez, who died in 2020 at the age of 75.
For more than five decades, Lopez wrote about the landscape in lyrical prose that offered a vivid and passionate account of humanity’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 is the author of dozens of essays and works of fiction and nonfiction, including the recent “Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World.
Toby Jurovics, director of the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art and the Environment, congratulated the photographers who came together to honor Lopez’s life and influence.
“When the Home Ground collection was first offered, the response was immediate and enthusiastic,” he said. “Barry was a landmark for so many writers and artists, and this collection is only a reflection of the affection and respect of his friends and colleagues.”
Lopez’s careful and conscientious descriptions have inspired many artists who have found a connection to her intimate understanding of the world. Virginia Beahan, one of the photographers who donated her 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 , was thinking and trying to make sense of the world.”
In addition to Beahan, photographers who have donated prints in Lopez’s honor 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 fulfillment of Lopez’s longtime desire to create a photographic companion to “Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape,” a reading dictionary of regional landscape terms he compiled with Debra Gwartney in 2006. In this 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 of words describing 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 of the Home Ground Collection sought resonances between these phrases and their own work. Inspired by terms such as ‘badlands’, ‘confluence’, ‘hanging valley’, ‘sawtooth’ and ‘swale’ which evoke both specific locations and the distinctive character of American topography, their photographs trace the shape landscapes that Americans call home and ones that fill their imaginations. Together, these places form a history of America, its aspirations and its desires.
The Sheldon Museum of Art and the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art and Environment have organized an exhibition from the Home Ground Collection entitled “From Here to the Horizon: Photographs in Honor of Barry Lopez”. The exhibition, which will have its inaugural presentation in Sheldon from January 27 to June 30, 2023, is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, with contributions from Debra Gwartney, Robert Macfarlane and Toby Jurovics.