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Art and Rural America Explored in Country Living Exhibit

Oct 17, 2014 10:22AM ● Published by Erica Shames

The Samek Art Museum at Bucknell University will present its newest exhibition, Country Living, through Dec. 7.

This exhibition takes a fresh new look at country life through the lens of modern and contemporary art, demonstrating just how surprisingly similar these worlds are.

"When I arrived in Lewisburg in rural central Pennsylvania to take up my new position as director of the Samek Art Museum, I spent time getting to know my new community," said Richard Rinehart.

"I saw certain things that I had no reference for; for instance, in the evening, some houses would light one (electric) candle in every window of the house. I noticed other details like large rusted metal stars hung on Edwardian porches or sides of double-wide trailer homes. I wondered what I was seeing here and it dawned on me that I was looking at country."

Rinehart said he tackled this puzzle through the visual culture mentioned above and through art, resulting in the exhibition Country Living as the first step in a much longer research project.

"Country Living does not frame the discussion in terms of 'high vs. low' art or 'art vs. craft.' What is interesting about country is how it crosses these divides as a cultural aesthetic. This exhibition starts with a synthetic definition of country as the contemporary lived experiences of 60 million rural Americans and taps into the ongoing conversation between the art world and rural America, a conversation that happens at the level of a brushstroke," he said.

The exhibition features works from the Samek Art Museum's permanent collection as well as works on loan from other institutions. Artists represented include Grant Wood, Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Huot, Kate Ericson, Mel Ziegler and more. Country Living also includes documentary photographs and objects from everyday life in order to further reveal the shared aesthetics of country life and art.

Visitors are encouraged to share their own thoughts on "country" both online, and in the gallery by bringing in objects for display that they feel represent the aesthetics of the country.

The Samek Gallery is located on the third floor of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday during the academic year.  The exhibition and related programming are free and open to the public.

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