The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape & Place

Wendy Ross. Bloom, 2001

The University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) expanded beyond its walls with Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place. This special traveling exhibition, comprised of 26 indoor and outdoor sculptures by 11 artists, was sited inside the UA Museum of Art as well as in the adjacent Joseph Gross Gallery (UA School of Art) and at seven selected UA campus locations. The entire exhibition opened on January 13, was on view in the UAMA and Gross Gallery through March 19, and the exhibit of outdoor works remained on view until April 2.

A public reception and an artist’s lecture marked the opening of the exhibit, Material Terrain, on Thursday, January 19. Artist Wendy Ross, whose elegant sculptures were prominently sited along Park Avenue, spoke about her work from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m. at the UA Center for Creative Photography, located across from the Museum. The lecture was followed by a reception in the Museum from 5:00 until 6:30 p.m.

The excellent Wendy Ross lecture is available for viewing as a podcast, through this link

Wendy Ross’s lecture was supported by a grant from the Tucson Visiting Artist Consortium (TVAC), which receives funding from the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC), the Arizona Commission on the Arts (ACA) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Artists featured in Material Terrain use diverse materials and techniques to address intersections between the natural and the constructed environments. Featured projects explore human associations with the natural terrain to reveal the fantasy of nature as a place of retreat and wonder, consider both pre- and post-industrialized landscapes, and suggest the imaginative desires inspired by the cycles of cultivation, production and consumption by which we all understand “land.” By employing richly symbolic objects, and through the extreme manipulation of organic as well as industrial materials, the artists reveal complex affiliations to the environment. Through these materially and conceptually diverse projects, the works in Material Terrain bring to attention the mixed and often contradictory landscapes we inhabit daily.

In Tucson’s desert context, and for the diverse communities in which the University is embedded, UAMA is a perfect site for the reconsideration Material Terrain offers – regarding the imagined, the built, the industrial, the native, the fantastical and the pedagogical environments, The artists presented in Material Terrain address provocative questions such as: the impact of electronic media on our sensory experiences, scientific advances in genetic engineering and species modification, and the negotiation of our relationship to the planet. Whether through crafting exquisite sculptural forms, imbuing work with irony or danger, or representing nature with startling verisimilitude, these artists consider nature’s astonishing power and vitality. In alignment with the UAMA commitment to the University of Arizona and greater Tucson communities, these projects also suggest the power of art to intervene in and question the landscape of the everyday.

 Featured artists

Kendall Buster and Dennis Oppenheim create structures that reveal conflict between the natural and the constructed; Donald Lipski blurs boundaries between the tree as found in nature and rendered through sculptural form. Ming Fay imposes a haunting presence on larger-than-life vegetables, fruits and foliage, while Valeska Soares address gardens as places of posterity and longevity. James Surls employs a sculptural language that plays between masculine and feminine symbols to reconsiders balances of power. Utilizing the process of hydroponics, Michele Brody layers symbolic content by shaping living environments as feminine garment forms. Ursula von Rydingsvard’s sculptures of roughly textured carved wood reference the confined spaces and structures of minimalism, as well as resemble ruptures in the earth. Wendy Ross bases her large-scale, steel geometric abstractions on the physical structures of plants, aquatic animals or simple organisms. John Ruppert’s work examines organic forms in various states of fecundity and decay.

 The University of Arizona Museum of Art presented Material Terrain

A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place – and so expanded outward to connect art in the Museum spaces to those in the public sphere. UAMA was one of 10 museums across the United States to host the exhibition, which was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C., in collaboration with the Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, MO. Curated by Carla M. Hanzal, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC. Material Terrain was supported in part by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and by an anonymous private donor. The UAMA presentation of Material Terrain received partial support from the Jack and Vivian Hanson Foundation and the Partners of the UAMA.

This travelling exhibition was organized by International Arts & Artists in Washington, DC


Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place [Washington, DC: International Arts and Artists, 2005] by Carla Hanzel and Glen Harper. ISBN: 0-9662859-8-0