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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art

The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

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Molly Donovan, curator of art, 1975–present, National Gallery of Art, in conversation with artists Janine Antoni, Byron Kim, and Glenn Ligon. At the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art held on March 23, 2018 at the National Gallery of Art, Janine Antoni, Byron Kim, and Glenn Ligon, whose works are featured in the special installation Bodies of Work, discuss their art with Molly Donovan. The conversation rounded out the symposium’s focus on portraiture and the histories and processes of representing the human figure in the nation’s collection. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

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Terence Washington, program assistant, department of academic programs, National Gallery of Art. In the poem “Joy,” Poet Laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith describes the body alternately as memory, as appetite, and as this question: “What do you believe in?” Using works from the Gallery’s collection as examples, Terence Washington, at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art held on March 23, 2018 at the National Gallery of Art, considers different ways the body has been framed in American art. How have the nation’s artists articulated responses to the body’s question? What is at stake in the presentation of those answers here, in the nation’s gallery? The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

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Anne Whiston Spirn, author, photographer, landscape architect, and Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many of Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the recent, important gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser appear in her books An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939) and The American Country Woman (1967), in which she paired photographs to expand meaning. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Anne Whiston Spirn looks at a selection of images from this collection in the context of the pair to which they belong and the captions that Lange wrote for them. “I used to think in terms of single photographs. The Bull’s-eye technique. No more. A photographic statement is what I now reach for. Therefore these pairs, like a statement of 2 words.” By the time she wrote this in 1958 Lange had been experimenting with pairing, sequencing, and captions for more than two decades. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Holly Bass, artistic director, Holly Bass|360. At the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, local artist Holly Bass discusses the importance of audience engagement as it relates to her current practice and the larger national conversation on equity, diversity, and inclusion. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

audio

John Fagg, lecturer, department of English literature, University of Birmingham. Robert Henri was referring to a cadaver he and his brother had just dissected when he confessed in an 1886 diary entry: “You put your self in his place.” Over the next two decades Henri developed and taught an approach to painting the body that emphasized breathing, feeling, and moving with one’s subject in reciprocal exchange. George Bellows, one of his students, embodied Henri’s theories in his fleshy, intuitive art, drawing on the experience of his own athletic body to picture the raw physicality of street kids, workers, and boxers. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, John Fagg explores the possibilities and limits of Bellows’s painting as a way to know and represent the bodies and lives of others. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

audio

Judith Brodie, curator and head, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. Recent additions to the Gallery’s collection have sparked new discussions and new ways of thinking about “fine” art. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Judith Brodie looks at some examples, including works by Winsor McCay, Saul Steinberg, and the Guerrilla Girls, and considers how they both challenge and conform to established thinking and in what way they reshape the conversation. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Karen Lemmey, curator of sculpture, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Karen Lemmey draws together the two replicas of The Greek Slave commissioned by William Humble Ward: one completed in 1846 and preserved in the Corcoran Collection at the National Gallery of Art, the other completed in 1848 and lost since the early 20th century. Sculptor Hiram Powers cleverly satisfied Lord Ward’s insistent demands for a unique version of the famed composition, revealing his ability to simultaneously entice and manage his patron’s desires. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

R. Tess Korobkin, PhD candidate, history of art, Yale University, and Ellen Holtzman Fellow, Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, 2017–2018. The fact that Frederick Douglass, a former slave and an outspoken proponent of abolitionism, owned a statuette of Hiram Powers’s The Greek Slave raises difficult questions. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Tess Korobkin highlights other examples of reproductions of the sculpture in a range of media to more fully explore the layered and sometimes contradictory political materialities of Powers’s work. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Sarah Cash, associate curator, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. Sarah Cash presents a brief history of Hiram Powers’s marble sculpture The Greek Slave at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art. In particular, Cash considers the work’s changing display and reception, both public and private, in Washington, DC from 1848 onward. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

 

video

Charles Brock, associate curator, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. When Both Members of This Club by George Bellows was placed on view at the National Gallery of Art in January 1945 at the behest of Gallery benefactor Chester Dale, it became the first significant work by an American modernist painter to be featured in the permanent collection. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Charles Brock discusses how this unsettling depiction of a violent interracial boxing match was acquired when there was little American or modern painting of any kind at the Gallery and established an important precedent for later efforts to better represent the diverse achievements of American modernism. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

John Fagg, lecturer, department of English literature, University of Birmingham. Robert Henri was referring to a cadaver he and his brother had just dissected when he confessed in an 1886 diary entry: “You put your self in his place.” Over the next two decades Henri developed and taught an approach to painting the body that emphasized breathing, feeling, and moving with one’s subject in reciprocal exchange. George Bellows, one of his students, embodied Henri’s theories in his fleshy, intuitive art, drawing on the experience of his own athletic body to picture the raw physicality of street kids, workers, and boxers. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, John Fagg explores the possibilities and limits of Bellows’s painting as a way to know and represent the bodies and lives of others. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

David C. Driskell, artist, curator, and Distinguished University Professor of Art, Emeritus, University of Maryland at College Park. Archibald Motley Jr.’s paintings of African American subjects underwent drastic changes in style and reception during the artist’s long lifetime. After including Motley’s paintings in his Two Centuries of Black American Art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976, David Driskell visited Motley at his home in 1979 and 1980. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, David Driskell presents his recollections of those conversations as well as other impressions of Motley’s work formed during Driskell’s career as an art historian and curator. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

David C. Driskell, artist, curator, and Distinguished University Professor of Art, Emeritus, University of Maryland at College Park. Archibald Motley Jr.’s paintings of African American subjects underwent drastic changes in style and reception during the artist’s long lifetime. After including Motley’s paintings in his Two Centuries of Black American Art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976, David Driskell visited Motley at his home in 1979 and 1980. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, David Driskell presents his recollections of those conversations as well as other impressions of Motley’s work formed during Driskell’s career as an art historian and curator. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

video

Nancy Anderson, curator and head, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. When the National Gallery of Art opened in 1941, only ten American paintings were on view. Almost all were portraits. Of these, only one was of a woman—the regal Catherine Brass Yates by Gilbert Stuart. Elegantly dressed in white silk, Mrs. Yates represents the essence of elite society in America following the Revolution. Seventy-five years later, another portrait of a woman in white has joined the collection. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Nancy Anderson shares how Archibald John Motley Jr.’s moving portrait of his grandmother, Emily Sims Motley, a former slave, speaks to a very different American story. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

audio

Nancy Anderson, curator and head, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. When the National Gallery of Art opened in 1941, only ten American paintings were on view. Almost all were portraits. Of these, only one was of a woman—the regal Catherine Brass Yates by Gilbert Stuart. Elegantly dressed in white silk, Mrs. Yates represents the essence of elite society in America following the Revolution. Seventy-five years later, another portrait of a woman in white has joined the collection. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Nancy Anderson shares how Archibald John Motley Jr.’s moving portrait of his grandmother, Emily Sims Motley, a former slave, speaks to a very different American story. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

Anne Whiston Spirn, author, photographer, landscape architect, and Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many of Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the recent, important gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser appear in her books An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939) and The American Country Woman (1967), in which she paired photographs to expand meaning. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Anne Whiston Spirn looks at a selection of images from this collection in the context of the pair to which they belong and the captions that Lange wrote for them. “I used to think in terms of single photographs. The Bull’s-eye technique. No more. A photographic statement is what I now reach for. Therefore these pairs, like a statement of 2 words.” By the time she wrote this in 1958 Lange had been experimenting with pairing, sequencing, and captions for more than two decades. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Charles Brock, associate curator, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. When Both Members of This Club by George Bellows was placed on view at the National Gallery of Art in January 1945 at the behest of Gallery benefactor Chester Dale, it became the first significant work by an American modernist painter to be featured in the permanent collection. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Charles Brock discusses how this unsettling depiction of a violent interracial boxing match was acquired when there was little American or modern painting of any kind at the Gallery and established an important precedent for later efforts to better represent the diverse achievements of American modernism. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

Judith Brodie, curator and head, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. Recent additions to the Gallery’s collection have sparked new discussions and new ways of thinking about “fine” art. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Judith Brodie looks at some examples, including works by Winsor McCay, Saul Steinberg, and the Guerrilla Girls, and considers how they both challenge and conform to established thinking and in what way they reshape the conversation. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

video

Karen Lemmey, curator of sculpture, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Karen Lemmey draws together the two replicas of The Greek Slave commissioned by William Humble Ward: one completed in 1846 and preserved in the Corcoran Collection at the National Gallery of Art, the other completed in 1848 and lost since the early 20th century. Sculptor Hiram Powers cleverly satisfied Lord Ward’s insistent demands for a unique version of the famed composition, revealing his ability to simultaneously entice and manage his patron’s desires. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

video

Holly Bass, artistic director, Holly Bass|360. At the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, local artist Holly Bass discusses the importance of audience engagement as it relates to her current practice and the larger national conversation on equity, diversity, and inclusion. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

Sarah Cash, associate curator, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. Sarah Cash presents a brief history of Hiram Powers’s marble sculpture The Greek Slave at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art. In particular, Cash considers the work’s changing display and reception, both public and private, in Washington, DC from 1848 onward. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

 

video

R. Tess Korobkin, PhD candidate, history of art, Yale University, and Ellen Holtzman Fellow, Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, 2017–2018. The fact that Frederick Douglass, a former slave and an outspoken proponent of abolitionism, owned a statuette of Hiram Powers’s The Greek Slave raises difficult questions. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Tess Korobkin highlights other examples of reproductions of the sculpture in a range of media to more fully explore the layered and sometimes contradictory political materialities of Powers’s work. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

video

Terence Washington, program assistant, department of academic programs, National Gallery of Art. In the poem “Joy,” Poet Laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith describes the body alternately as memory, as appetite, and as this question: “What do you believe in?” Using works from the Gallery’s collection as examples, Terence Washington, at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art held on March 23, 2018 at the National Gallery of Art, considers different ways the body has been framed in American art. How have the nation’s artists articulated responses to the body’s question? What is at stake in the presentation of those answers here, in the nation’s gallery? The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

video

Justin Wolff, associate professor of art history, University of Maine. In November 1937 Life magazine featured four lithographs by the American artist Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) in the article “Four Ways in Which the World May End.” In this lecture from the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held at the National Gallery of Art on October 22, 2016, Justin Wolff analyzes the so-called “End of the World” lithographs, part of the National Gallery of Art collection, in the context of scientific theories about cosmic cataclysm, suspicions that European fascism portended an apocalypse, and Kent’s solidarity with a radical leftism that anticipated capitalism’s disintegration. Wolff considers looking beyond their political meaning to what the lithographs tell us about Kent’s renowned emotional intensity and wanderlust—specifically, what they reveal about his tenacious quest to acquire psychic integrity in barren lands at the ends of the world. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Justin Wolff, associate professor of art history, University of Maine. In November 1937 Life magazine featured four lithographs by the American artist Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) in the article “Four Ways in Which the World May End.” In this lecture from the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held at the National Gallery of Art on October 22, 2016, Justin Wolff analyzes the so-called “End of the World” lithographs, part of the National Gallery of Art collection, in the context of scientific theories about cosmic cataclysm, suspicions that European fascism portended an apocalypse, and Kent’s solidarity with a radical leftism that anticipated capitalism’s disintegration. Wolff considers looking beyond their political meaning to what the lithographs tell us about Kent’s renowned emotional intensity and wanderlust—specifically, what they reveal about his tenacious quest to acquire psychic integrity in barren lands at the ends of the world. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

video

Randall Griffey, associate curator, department of modern and contemporary art, Metropolitan Museum of Art. American painter Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) entered the modernist canon as a result of the abstract paintings he created in Germany in 1914-1915. But the paintings he created of his home state of Maine late in his career beginning in 1937 brought him his greatest acclaim during his lifetime. In fact, Hartley began his career in 1909 at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery as a painter of Maine. Previewing a major exhibition to open in March 2017 at the Met Breuer and in July 2017 at the Colby College Museum of Art, Randall Griffey illuminates the painter’s dynamic, rich, and occasionally contradictory artistic engagement with his native Maine. Maine was to Hartley a springboard to imagination and creative inspiration, a locus of memory and longing, a refuge, and a means of communion with previous artists who painted there, especially Winslow Homer. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Griffey showcases Hartley’s impressive range, from early post-impressionist interpretations of seasonal change in the region to late, folk-inspired depictions of Mount Katahdin, the state’s great geological landmark. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

 

audio

Randall Griffey, associate curator, department of modern and contemporary art, Metropolitan Museum of Art. American painter Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) entered the modernist canon as a result of the abstract paintings he created in Germany in 1914-1915. But the paintings he created of his home state of Maine late in his career beginning in 1937 brought him his greatest acclaim during his lifetime. In fact, Hartley began his career in 1909 at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery as a painter of Maine. Previewing a major exhibition to open in March 2017 at the Met Breuer and in July 2017 at the Colby College Museum of Art, Randall Griffey illuminates the painter’s dynamic, rich, and occasionally contradictory artistic engagement with his native Maine. Maine was to Hartley a springboard to imagination and creative inspiration, a locus of memory and longing, a refuge, and a means of communion with previous artists who painted there, especially Winslow Homer. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Griffey showcases Hartley’s impressive range, from early post-impressionist interpretations of seasonal change in the region to late, folk-inspired depictions of Mount Katahdin, the state’s great geological landmark. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

 

video

Jennifer Raab, assistant professor, department of the history of art, Yale University. What does it mean to see a work of art “in detail”? Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Jennifer Raab considers broader questions of detail, vision, and knowledge in 19th-century America by looking at a few of Frederic Church’s most famous landscape paintings. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

audio

Rachael Z. DeLue, associate professor, department of art and archaeology, Princeton University. The modern American artist Arthur Dove (1880–1946) drew inspiration from the natural world when making his paintings and assemblages, but he also played around with found objects, popular music, sound technology, aviation, farm animals, meteorology, language, and script, including his own signature. The circle motifs that appear persistently across Dove’s art serve to signify and connect these disparate things, creating a vital and unique form of abstraction, one resolutely if paradoxically bound to objective reality and material existence. As Dove himself said, “there is no such thing as abstraction,” preferring the term “extraction” to describe the essential relationship between his work and the world. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Rachael Z. DeLue discusses some of the chief characteristics of Dove’s extractions, focusing on examples from the Gallery’s collection. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

Rachael Z. DeLue, associate professor, department of art and archaeology, Princeton University. The modern American artist Arthur Dove (1880–1946) drew inspiration from the natural world when making his paintings and assemblages, but he also played around with found objects, popular music, sound technology, aviation, farm animals, meteorology, language, and script, including his own signature. The circle motifs that appear persistently across Dove’s art serve to signify and connect these disparate things, creating a vital and unique form of abstraction, one resolutely if paradoxically bound to objective reality and material existence. As Dove himself said, “there is no such thing as abstraction,” preferring the term “extraction” to describe the essential relationship between his work and the world. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Rachael Z. DeLue discusses some of the chief characteristics of Dove’s extractions, focusing on examples from the Gallery’s collection. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

video

Wendy Bellion, associate professor, department of art history, University of Delaware. Trompe l’oeil art challenges viewers to make perceptual distinctions between things that look extraordinarily similar. It stages lessons in perception, imitation, and deception while piquing our delight in the pleasures of wit. Drawing upon the National Gallery of Art’s important collection of American still life painting, Wendy Bellion explores the serious fun of illusion in a lecture from the inaugural John Wilmerding Sympsoium on American Art, held at the National Gallery of Art on October 22, 2016. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

video

Mark D. Mitchell, Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Yale University Art Gallery. The genre of still life has enjoyed unexpected power in America’s artistic tradition. Its periodic resurgence provides distinct perspective on the nation’s cultural development hewn to individual experience. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Mark D. Mitchell offers a new look at still life, its meaning in America, and its potential for future study. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Jennifer Raab, assistant professor, department of the history of art, Yale University. What does it mean to see a work of art “in detail”? Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Jennifer Raab considers broader questions of detail, vision, and knowledge in 19th-century America by looking at a few of Frederic Church’s most famous landscape paintings. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

 

audio

Wendy Bellion, associate professor, department of art history, University of Delaware. Trompe l’oeil art challenges viewers to make perceptual distinctions between things that look extraordinarily similar. It stages lessons in perception, imitation, and deception while piquing our delight in the pleasures of wit. Drawing upon the National Gallery of Art’s important collection of American still life painting, Wendy Bellion explores the serious fun of illusion in a lecture from the inaugural John Wilmerding Sympsoium on American Art, held at the National Gallery of Art on October 22, 2016. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

audio

Mark D. Mitchell, Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Yale University Art Gallery. The genre of still life has enjoyed unexpected power in America’s artistic tradition. Its periodic resurgence provides distinct perspective on the nation’s cultural development hewn to individual experience. Speaking at the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on October 22, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Mark D. Mitchell offers a new look at still life, its meaning in America, and its potential for future study. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.