Back From Nature: The Sportsman Redux

March 9—April 24, 2005
Robert Beck • Kimberley Hart • Arturo Herrera • Jocelyn Lee • Brian DeRosia • Tony Mattelli •Andrew Mowbray • Scott Peterman • Alexis Rockman • Marc Swanson

Back From Nature: The Sportsman Redux explores art that either directly deals with the activity of hunting and fishing or the aesthetics, cult, history or politics of the sportsman. The topic is approached through a range of perspectives from passively observing the sportsman culture to eagerly participating in the hunt as an imaginative feat and test of patience and skill.

The parallels between making art and hunting and fishing are many and close. The experiences are singular and personal. Each requires attention to minutia; a respect for chance and a highly developed skill set which often leads to an intense absorption in the given activity. The culmination of task gives rise to new decisions including function and display. Both endeavors are highly idiosyncratic, principled, and romanticized. It is no surprise that many artists are sportsmen and those who are not are intensely attracted to the cults of hunting, fishing, and camp life in the wilderness.

The American sportsman is a cultural icon and enduring metaphor for manliness, bravado and courage. In Maine, the home of L.L. Bean, the notion of sportsman is sentimentally and culturally entrenched in the state’s psyche. Sportsmen in Maine, who also happened to be artists, like Winslow Homer, treasured their fishing outings and hunting expeditions as pleasurable retreats but also as a unique source of aesthetic subject matter. While this group exhibition examines how this exchange is still relevant it also indicates and is representative of the pop influences and stereotypes that inform today’s perception of the sportsman through the eyes of artists.

In addition to historical references and acknowledgment of the similarity of these respective tasks, this exhibition will also deal with other issues including: gender and masculinity, documentation verses aesthetics, trophies vs. art, “camp” on camp, environment and ethics, innocence and romance.

Back from Nature, The Sportsman Redux explores the visual manifestations of the sportsman through the eyes of artist rather than providing a theoretical cultural critique of sportsman. The aim of this exhibition is to afford people interested in the topic an opportunity to re-evaluate their assumptions and expectations of the idea and aims of sportsman.