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Exhibitions: Past

The Bird Disaster Series

Works by Leslie Bostrom

November 18 – December 17, 2004

The Bird Disaster Series The Bird Disaster Series The Bird Disaster Series The Bird Disaster Series The Bird Disaster Series

In this country, early depictions of the landscape in paintings were usually topographical views or illustrations of farms and important landmarks. Often landscapes appeared in portrait paintings but only as a backdrop to more important human dramas taking place in the painting.

The idea that the landscape could be used by artists as exalted subject matter was not considered in either Europe or America until the early 19th century with the birth of certain philosophies of nature: specifically the theory of the Sublime; that the power and fear generated by the natural world could offer artists an opportunity to experience, through study of the landscape, enlightenment, the presence of God, and harmony with the universe.

A Romantic landscape theory took hold in America through the works of the first generation of painters that came to be called the Hudson River School. Panoramic views of the unspoiled American wilderness reflected the ideal of natural wealth and abundance. Allegorical settings rife with symbolic content were being created at the same time industrialization rolled westward. Many of these works became a document of the wilderness as it began to disappear.

Leslie Bostrom's commitment to the idea of the landscape in her current works is a nod toward these earlier paintings but her sensibilities are more closely aligned with other artists in the early 20th century who took a much grimmer look at the landscape. At that time, some artists abandoned pastoral picturesque compositions to document the grit of urban life and bring about social change. Bostrom's new works are large scale paintings and smaller watercolor studies that take an unflinching look the careless and consumptive ways we move through the natural world. These powerful works reflect her continued commitment to political and environmental causes and her interest in ornithology. They also offer the opportunity for her to use a familiar genre, landscape painting, to reorient our attention to our careless use of natural resources.

Kathleen Hancock

The Artist

Leslie Bostrom

"My intention was to create anti-landscapes: not landscapes of the frontier (imperial power), not landscapes of awe (natural/spiritual purity), not landscapes of home (comforting nostalgia) and not landscapes of painting (modernist experimentation in space).These paintings are my attempt to counter those familiar conceptions of nature as a separated refuge with the concept of an (un)nature unavoidably intertwined with human activity." "On the most obvious level, the paintings of cut down forest and displaced or dying birds are propaganda, calling attention to the destruction of non-human forms of life as a result of human activity."


Leslie Bostrom holds an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from University of Maine, Orono. She is Associate Professor of Art at Brown University. Recent solo exhibition include Mixed Messages and Other Confusions, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Paul Whitney Larson Art Gallery, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN; New Work, Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York, NY. Selected group exhibitions include It's For The Birds, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, FL and 2004 DeCordova Annual Exhibition, Lincoln, MA. She was the 2002 recipient of the Solomon Grant, Brown University. She is the co-author of Reviewing the Nude, published in the Spring 1999 issue of the College Art Association Journal.