“Sacred Site” presents a rare opportunity to encounter the full scale and impact of Frederic Church’s monumental canvases in the landscape he designed at Olana. The installation comprises twelve replicated works created by contemporary artist Diana Wege, who engaged with Church’s “Niagara Falls, from the American Side” (1867) for over a decade. Just as Church’s large-scale paintings called 19th-century audiences to wonder at nature’s awe-inspiring power, this project calls us to consider the connections between humanity, nature, public land, and personal inspiration.
“Sacred Site” heralds The Olana Partnership’s “Niagara Year”–a year of programming and projects designed to examine Frederic Church’s role in creating and advocating for protected public lands in connection with Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday. Olmsted was Church’s key ally in the preservation of Niagara Falls as an international parks partnership and the designer of Central Park, of which Church was a commissioner. When Frederic Church unveiled his first major painting of Niagara Falls in 1857 (Niagara, National Gallery of Art), he defied claims that the subject was so overwhelming that no painting could do it justice. Church’s groundbreaking panoramic view over the precipice of the Falls astonished period audiences.
Drawing from Church’s awe-inspiring subject matter and the scale of his original artwork, contemporary artist Diana Wege captures the power and fragility of the natural world in this installation. Wege’s twelve works flank Mt. Merino, a forested spot in Olana’s historic viewshed that was protected from development in 2008. Placing the works at this significant location in Church’s designed landscape calls attention to the vulnerability of our environments and the importance of land stewardship.
“Sacred Site” will be on view at Olana State Historic Site from July 24 through the end of October and is accessible and free for all visitors to Olana’s designed historic landscape.