Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Friday, June 3, 2016
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Our Good Earth

Our Good Earth

On View June 3 through August 21, 2016

Opening Reception on June 3, 6-9 pm

MADISON, WI—Our Good Earth addresses how modern and contemporary artists represented in the museum’s permanent collection have portrayed the natural world and imbued it with meaning. With both a celebratory and critical eye, the artists represented in the exhibition visualize nature in works of art that document a great range of locales, geological features, and weathers in equally diverse media and styles.

Our Good Earth takes its title from a 1942 lithograph by John Steuart Curry that depicts a farmer and his two young children standing waist high in a bountiful field of wheat. Curry’s implication of a nurturing and spiritualized earth rests upon a notion of nature expressed in early nineteenth-century Romantic landscape painting. The natural world—its diverse topography and flora and fauna—is an embodiment of divine grace. Nature in its purity, however, was understood by both Romantic artists and poets to be jeopardized by human intervention, most notably, the deleterious effects of the Industrial Revolution. The worsening of these consequences over the years has altered and, in some cases, irreparably damaged the natural landscape. In our time, fossil fuel emissions among other human-made toxins and actions have led to global warming, with the prospects of drastic climate change and threatened economies that endanger human populations, animal species, and the land as we know it.

Our Good Earth begins with two visual accounts of the planet’s beginnings: the Mayan creation myth as rendered by Carlos Mérida in a selection of lithographs from his Estampas del Popol Vuh (1943); and The First Four Days of Creation (1976), a series of wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg that show the earth’s divine formation before God’s introduction of animals and humanity.

The exhibition then proceeds to works of art that take a traditional approach of visualizing nature in lyrical and poetic terms. Jack Beal’s Taylor’s Road (1962) with its glowing colors and Impressionist brushwork exemplifies this type of landscape art. What follows next are sections devoted various aspects of earth’s environment, including, among others: mountains (Marsden Hartley, Trees and Mountain, 1932), animals (Thomas Cornell, Turtle II, date unknown); water (Pat Steir, Long Vertical Falls #3, 1991), snow (Lee Weiss, Winter Landscape, 1962); and fire (Charles Munch, Fire Signs, 1989).

As Our Good Earth continues, disasters and threats to the world (both natural and man-made) are visualized directly and indirectly as compromised to the sustainability of human and animal ecologies. France Myers responds to the horrific intensity of Hurricane Katrina in Medusa Deluged (2006). Additionally, the Richard Misrach photograph of an empty and corroded swimming pool in an abandoned Californian resort town in Diving Board #8, Salton Sea (1987), the artificial lake of the earlier twentieth century is now dead of extreme salinity.

It may no longer be possible to view landscape art with an innocent eye. Our Good Earth, in its implied narrative of mourning, aims to stimulate audiences to think about social and political issues made urgent by a changing planet and what we stand to lose.



MMoCA Nights: June 3, 6-9 pm

Celebrate the opening of four new exhibitions and the kick off of Rooftop Cinema. Enjoy music in the Rooftop Sculpture Garden by The Kissers. At 6:30 pm artist Claire Stigliani will discuss the work in her exhibition, Claire Stigliani: Half-Sick of Shadows.

Each gallery with a fresh, thoughtful art experience. You will find a wide range of work from the poetic prints of Frances Myers to the dayglo imaginings of Wong Ping. Explore the tension of our times through the cultural lens of Claire Stigliani or through the timeless mirror of the environment in Our Good Earth.

This event is free for MMoCA Members/$10 for non-members.


 MMoCA Nights: August 19, 6-9 pm

Guests will have a final opportunity to enjoy the main galleries exhibition Our Good Earth. This exhibition draws from the museum’s permanent collection, and features works in which artists explore the natural world. During the evening Fresh Hops will play live, high energy music in the rooftop sculpture garden, and Fresco will pass flavorful hors d’oeuvres. The event is free for MMoCA Members/$10 for non-members.

At 6:30 pm Professor Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, will lead a conversation about earth's rapid environmental changes.

Is there really “no going back”? The Earth has entered a state of unprecedented change. The world’s landscapes are already responding to transformations in climate, biogeochemistry, land cover, ice and water. Whether the future of the Earth needs to be one of tragedy and destruction or creative possibility or renewal, remains an open question. Professor Paul Robbins will lead an informed discussion on current state debates concerning Earth Futures. Thinking about changing weather and geography allows us to together get both a scientific and emotional grasp on a changing planet.

Professor Robbins is the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he guides the institute in serving as a world leader in addressing rapid global environmental change. Professor Robbins is author of the foundational textbook Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction and numerous research articles in publications that address conservation science, social science, and the humanities. His award-winning book Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are is widely recognized as one of the most accessible books on the environmental politics of daily life. Main galleries.



Generous funding for Our Good Earth has been provided by The DeAtley Family Foundation; MillerCoors: John and Kim Sylla; U.S. Bank; Dane Arts; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.


Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays. 

Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli designed building on State Street, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art offers exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The four galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view.

In addition to its acclaimed exhibitions, museum programs such as MMoCA Nights, Kids Art Adventures, and Rooftop Cinema, have made MMoCA a favorite downtown destination. The award-winning Museum Store offers contemporary American craft and fine jewelry, while Fresco, the museum’s rooftop restaurant, features local, seasonal ingredients, and fine American cuisine.


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