Unsettled Ground

March 22 – June 26, 2022
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago

How has the environment shaped artistic practice, and how can these artistic forms help us to understand our local and planetary environment in new ways? Unsettled Ground explores the interaction of art and ecology as a dynamic conversation that gains new meaning against the background of our climate crisis. Featuring artworks in a wide variety of media from the Smart Museum’s collection, this exhibition invites visitors to consider how artists have engaged with the natural world, interrogated its transformation at human hands, and amplified stories of dispossession and resilience embedded in the earth.

Across four thematic sections—Arts of Observation, Earthly Visions, Land at Work, and No Man’s Landthe artworks on view prompt us to shift between perspectives, scales, and sensory modalities, revealing hidden wonders and fantastic visions, abuse and exploitation. Unsettling habitual ways of perceiving local, regional, and ecologies, these objects encourage us to reflect on the earth’s beauty and fragility, as well as our responsibilities to the planet and one another.

Organized by the Smart Museum’s Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, this exhibition was collaboratively curated by Katerina Korola and the students of her seminar, “Picturing the Earth: Art and Environment in the Modern Era.” Over Fall 2021, the students worked together to research, conceptualize, and develop interpretive materials for the exhibition, which can be visited at the Smart Museum of Art from March 22nd to June 26th, 2022. This website represents a digital translation of the exhibition. Student curatorial essays and creative projects, which offer additional insight into the works on display, can be consulted under “Essays and Projects.”

Unsettled Ground is curated by Katerina Korola (PhD’21) with Berit Ness, Associate Curator for Academic Engagement, and student curators Sindy Chen (MAPH’22), Vicky Chen (AB’23), Sabrina Cunningham (AB’22), Isabella Diefendorf (AB’24), Teagan Harris (MAPH’22), Ellis LeBlanc (MAPH’22), Meichen Liu (MAPH’22), Felix Ramin (AB’23), Teddy Sandler (AB’23), Jack Schneider (MAPH’22), Wenshu Wang (MAPH’22), Xuanlin Ye (MAPH’22), Datura Zhou (MAPH’22), Octavia Zhou (AB’23)

Support for this exhibition has been provided by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry Fund and the Museum’s SmartPartners.