PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The David Winton Bell Gallery will present Lucas Foglia: A Natural Order, from Saturday, March 31, through Sunday, May 27, 2012. This is Foglia's first solo exhibition, mounted in conjunction with the release of his first monograph, A Natural Order, published next month by Nazraeli Press. The exhibition is curated by Bell Gallery Director Jo-Ann Conklin.
An opening reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5, in the List Art Center Auditorium. The program will include an artist talk and a reading by Forrest Gander, the Adele Kellenberg Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literatures at Brown, based on Foglia’s interviews for A Natural Order. A reception will follow. The exhibition and opening event are free and open to the public.
Raised on a small family farm in Long Island, Foglia’s respect for the human bond with the land has colored his work to date. In two series included in the exhibition — A Natural Order, 2006-2010, and his current series Frontcountry — Foglia has searched out people who have reinstated or retained their connection to the land as source of food, shelter, and sustenance.
A Natural Order focuses on a network of people who have left cities and suburbs to live off the grid in the southeastern United States. Over a four-year period beginning in the summer of 2006, Foglia met, stayed with, photographed, and recorded conversations with people at “rewilding” communities such as Wildroots Earthskill Homestead, at Christian communities such as Russell Creek Community, and with smaller independent groups. His subjects have embraced a self-sufficient lifestyle for varied reasons: religious, environmental, or political; liberal or libertarian. They all strive for self-sufficiency and sustainability, but they are not totally isolated from the outside. As Foglia has said, “Many have websites that they update using laptop computers and cell phones that they charge on car batteries or solar panels.”
According to Conklin, Foglia has produced an intriguing and seductive narrative of green culture, which is meant to draw viewers in and engender interest in self-sustainability. From an urban viewpoint, this can seem exotic — meals of possum stew, venison soaking in a bathtub, a dead bear lying on the ground — or bucolic, with children playing in streams, drinking milk from a goat’s teat, running with goats in a pasture. Other images reflect the tension between “primitive” and “civilized” living.
Frontcountry explores life in mining boomtowns and in ranching and farming communities across the western United States. The title refers to the boundary area where the wilderness meets the outskirts of towns. Foglia pictures families that struggle to make a living as ranching and farming become less lucrative and the industries which take from the land — natural gas, coal, oil, and gold, among them — and represent the only alternative source of income in the area.
Two programs will be held in conjunction with the exhibition. On Monday, April 9, Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, will discuss the “Good Food Revolution.” The lecture will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Martinos Auditorium, Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, 154 Angell St. On Friday, April 13, nationally recognized storyteller Doug Elliott will present “Rewilding, Weeds, and Wildwoods Wisdom: Living off the Land in a Changing World.” Elliott’s presentation will include stories of the people in Foglia’s images, many of whom were introduced to Foglia by Elliott. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the List Art Center Auditorium.
Support for A Natural Order and associated programs has been provided by Dr. Joseph Chazan, the Creative Arts Council, the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, the Department of History, and the Center for Environmental Studies.
About the artist
A 2005 graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Art, Foglia exhibits and publishes his photographs widely. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Pilara Foundation, the Marguilies Collection, and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and has been published in Aperture Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, and the British Journal of Photography. Foglia lives in San Francisco, where he teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute.
The Bell Gallery, located inside List Art Center, 64 College St., is open to the public without charge Monday though Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please call 401-863-2932.