Art& the Many Meanings of Ice with Maggie Cao

Friday, October 20, 2023,

Colby College Museum of Art, Arthur Vining Davis Gallery

During the Civil War era, artists from the U.S. traveled far and wide to paint sublime landscapes. Perhaps the most famous of these artists was Frederic Edwin Church, whose destinations included the frigid and otherworldly Arctic.

How did U.S. viewers make sense of Church’s strange pictures of ice? Maggie Cao, professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will contextualize two iceberg paintings by Church, one on loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the other in the Lunder Collection. She will connect the paintings to the popularity of polar exploration, the expansion of the industrial ice trade, and the idealism of neoclassical sculpture.

In this gallery talk, learn how ice was a material implicated in racial politics, technological innovation, and global relations far beyond the Arctic.

About Maggie Cao

Maggie Cao is David G. Frey Associate Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she is a scholar of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American art in a global context. Cao is the author of The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America and has also written on media theory, material culture, and ecocriticism. Her second book, Painting and the Making of American Empire, will be published in 2024.

About Art&

The Art& series brings together visiting artists, scholars, museum staff, and community experts for conversations about exhibitions, collections, and projects at the Colby College Museum of Art and its Lunder Institute for American Art. A mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid programs, this series is designed for those interested in learning more about art and engaging with the key issues of our times. 

This program is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Frederic Edwin Church, The Iceberg, c. 1875, Oil on canvas, Image: 22 x 27 in. (55.9 x 68.6 cm), Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.6. 

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