Four Seasons series: Winter by Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow), 2006
Ideas about the American West, both in popular culture and in commonly accepted historical narratives, are often based on a past that never was, and fail to consider important events that occurred. A new exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, "Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea," examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a broader and more inclusive view of this region, which too often has been dominated by romanticized myths and Euro-American historical accounts.
This exhibition presents an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés, and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the United States. Working in various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured bring a nuanced and multifaceted history to light. "Many Wests" highlights many voices—including artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+—who stake a claim on the American West.
The exhibition’s three sections—Caretakers, Memory Makers, and Boundary Breakers—highlight the various ways artists explore singular conceptions of the American West, often demonstrating the resilience of marginalized communities who survived against the odds. The featured in "Many Wests" reveal that “the West” has always been a place of multiple stories, experiences, and cultures.
Anne Hyland, the Art Bridges Initiative curatorial coordinator at the American Art Museum, provides an overview of the exhibition.
Special note: Arrive early to view Many Wests before the lecture; the museum is open until 7 p.m.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.