Photo exhibit from the Pizzuti Collection shows various American experiences

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With his 1860 poem, “I Hear America Singing,” Walt Whitman proclaimed through the “various carols” he heard that the country was celebrating its ordinary people — their diversity and their contributions to American life.

Maybe not so much these days. Have all Americans—Indigenous peoples, African Americans, immigrants, for example—experienced their inalienable rights and been celebrated for their contributions?

A new exhibition at the Pizzuti Collection in the Petit Nord presents more than 60 photographs by 16 artists offering a new look at the question. “I Hear America Singing: Contemporary Photographs From America” attempts to look at, redefine, and present a portrait of national identity.

Curated by independent curator Ashley Lumb, it was the first American photography exhibition to take place in Amman, Jordan, showing there in 2021.

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“The intention was to highlight, especially to foreign audiences, the diversity of experiences and people in this country,” said Tyler Cann, director of exhibitions and curator of contemporary art at the Columbus Museum of Art, which owns and operates the Pizzuti collection. .

At the Pizzuti Collection, the exhibition – whose information panels are presented in English and Arabic – will continue until January 22. In October, the exhibit will be part of the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial, a celebration of photography with events in Ohio and Kentucky.

The photographs, all by American artists, address three themes: portraiture, landscape and American history.

"Freed from fear," by For Freedoms (Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur in collaboration with Eric Gottesman and Wyatt Gallery of For Freedoms)

William Wilson, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, photographed and filmed his Native American subjects, creating “talking iron types”. Using their cell phones, visitors can watch his Edward Curtis-esque portraits come to life – talking, making music and even dancing for a few minutes.

For Freedoms, an artist platform co-founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, revisits classic Norman Rockwell paintings but with diverse subject matter. In “Freedom from Fear,” for example, a Muslim couple tuck their children into bed while holding a copy of a newspaper with a headline about attacks on their religious community.

Michael Lundgren made black and white portraits of visitors and inhabitants of the American West. “Dusty Morris, Owens Valley, California” is a gelatin silver print of a woman, her eyes nearly closed, standing in front of trees and a lattice fence, their shadows falling on her face and body.

"Dusty Morris, Owens Valley, California" by Michael Lundgren

In her inkjet print “The Wall,” Griselda San Martin documents Friendship Park, an area between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego where people separated from loved ones can communicate through a fence without crossing the border.

Many landscape photographs are beautiful even though they depict human aggression against the natural environment. “Surface Mining, Newmont Mining Corporation, Carlin, Nevada, 2012” by Lucas Foglia captures a beautifully colored road crossing the landscape.

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Pilot and photographer Alex MacLean captured aerial views of sections of the country, including “Streaks Down the Radius, Hopkinsville, Kentucky,” a glimpse of a golf course traversing what looks like land subject to mining open pit coal.

Historical perspectives are taken by Greg Stimac, whose “Golden Spike” is a photogram of the spike that joined the tracks of the First Transcontinental Railroad; and Pamela Pecchio, who re-evaluates the founding fathers with her photographic collages.

"Surface mining, Newmont Mining Corporation, Carlin, Nevada, 2012" by Lucas Foglia

If there’s a pattern to the photographs beyond a revisionist look at Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” collection poem, it’s that the artists often used layers of construction and meaning in their works. Archival photographs are mixed with current scenes; landscape photos can be folded like origami and remade to produce an entirely new image; historical figures and events are considered and reconsidered.

The photographs – beautiful and beautifully created – are equally impressive in their depth of meaning and their attempt to take an honest look at the people and the land that is America today.

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In one look

“I Hear America Singing” continues through January 22, 2023, at the Pizzuti Collection at the Columbus Museum of Art, 632 N. Park St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Admission: $5, free for members 3 and under, veterans and active military and their families. Call 614-221-6801 or visit www.columbusmuseum.org.

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