Fruitlands Speaks A Language All Its Own
By Elizabeth Michelman
The slope down to the farmhouse at Fruitlands is a cultivated one. It expresses a “language” of architecture and agriculture.When Bronson Alcott and his fellow Transcendentalists arrived here in the early 19th century to begin a communal farming experiment, this landscape was already far altered from its primitive state. Forests were hewn to make way for fields and stones harvested to fence them in, orchards were planted for fruit and pines for shade. The sun did not just set but beckoned over the hills to the American West and its receding wilderness. This back-to-the-earth attempt, supported by a belief in the divinity in man, the authority of the self, and the grounding of human intuition in the laws of nature, was simply one more moment in an evolving ideology of “Nature.”
While the title of this year’s outdoor exhibition at Fruitlands, “Art in Nature,” avoids imposing an interpretation of nature, taking the nature of “nature” for granted implies one. There may be a greater preference for work exuding clarity of boundaries and confidence about its place in tradition. For many of the artists, consideration of the relation of their works to associations of place and placement occurred as an afterthought. Many even delegated the sitting of their pieces to the curator, as though the specific environment was no more than an amenity to be dealt with.