Western American Art Symposium

Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West

2018 Western American Art Symposium

The Petrie Institute of Western American Art hosted its 12th annual symposium, Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West, on Thursday, January 4, 2018. Expanding upon the well-known artist triumvirate of Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood, the symposium focused on regionalism and its impact on artists working in the West.


Four scholars examined how the cultural climate of America during the 1920s and 30s influenced artists across the Mid-, South-, and Northwestern regions.

Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Gothic in Western Regionalism

Amanda C. Burdan, Associate Curator, Brandywine River Museum of Art

At its highpoint, regionalism intersected with a number of sobering developments in American culture including the stock market crash and Great Depression; the environmental crises of floods, droughts and the Dust Bowl; and the rising international tensions as the country was drawn ever closer to World War II. Western regionalists were particularly attuned to anxieties involving the encroaching industrialization on a landscape previously celebrated as the fount of American identity: the West. This lecture will explore some of the key themes and symbols introduced by regionalists as pastoral and ideal Western landscapes turned sublime and gothic.

Regionalism’s Geographic Diversity: The Lure of the Local in American Art of the 1930s

Erika Doss, Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame

Regionalism, a dominant style of modern American art during the 1930s, is routinely associated with Midwestern scenes of rural life and grass-roots values as represented in the paintings, murals and prints of Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, the so-called “Regionalist Triumvirate.” Yet regionalism had a much broader geographic spread and included groups of artists in Texas and Oklahoma (“The Dallas Nine”), on the Pacific Coast and the Great Lakes, and in New England and the West. This talk looks at how regionalist artists throughout the country focused on local landscapes, traditions and stories to develop a distinctively “American” art of cultural pluralism.

Northwest Regionalism, Social Realism, and the American Scene

David F. Martin, Consulting Curator, Cascadia Art Museum

David F. Martin will focus on regional artists and their depictions of scenes from everyday life in the Northwest during the 1930s and 40s. Many of the works reflect the industrial, political and social aspects of the Great Depression and World War II era.

Room Enough and Time Enough: The Allure of the American Southwest.

Mark A. White, Director, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma

White will discuss the allure of the American Southwest among artists drawn to the Santa Fe and Taos colonies. American artists adapted styles from modernism to depict the salient characteristics of their Southwestern environs, most notably the expansive spaces and the perceived antiquity of both the land and its cultures.


Patricia Limerick, Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Barbara Latham, View from Our House in Talpa, about 1935. Bequest of Barbara Latham, 1989.126