Virgin Landscape

January 20 - March 19, 2017

Nineteenth-century westward expansion is often glorified as a successful development by man—an adventure and opportunity to build a better life through technological advancement and the spreading of classic Western ideals. Yet, this settlement was also founded on the exploitation of the land and the mistreatment of other cultures. Photographs from the period often supported these oppressive ideals or documented their consequences.

Virgin Landscape: Representations of Women and the American West illuminates the intersectionality of gender and the environment in the American West. Referring to land as virgin is a centuries old phrase used to perpetuate notions of ownership over pure, untouched territories ripe with opportunity. This exhibition juxtaposes the scope of virgin lands with the rise of women in the American West.

Virgin Landscape will provide an opportunity for audiences to explore the way women are represented through photographs of the American West, and their connection to the state of the environment. The exhibition will include works by well-known artists from the de Saisset's permanent collection whose work documents and responds to the nineteenth-century American West. These images will reveal multiple perspectives on women in the West, featuring images of and about women, as well as portraits and landscapes taken by women.

This exhibition is guest curated by Professor Bridget Gilman with students from her Spring 2016 “Photography and the American West” Art History class: Jessica Andzouana, Tessie Berghoff, Maddie Burke, Jaime Daigle, Ciaran Freeman, Sarah Fisch, Stephen Hua, Emily Mun, Leigh Pond, Veronica Ribeiro, and Kate Yanish.


The Virgin Landscape: Representations of Women and the American West exhibition is partially funded by the Inouye de Saisset Museum Fund.


Image: Judy Dater, My Hands, Death Valley; Self Portrait Sequence No. 1, 1982, gelatin silver print. de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Santa Clara University, Gift of Judy Dater, 6.364.1986.
Oct 28, 2016

Mark your calendars for February 3, 2017:

Exhibition Lecture
3:30-5:00 p.m. - Held in the new Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building

Exhibiting artist Janet Delaney will be joined in conversation by guest curator Dr. Bridget Gilman and two SCU students involved in the curation of this exhibition. This panel is offered as part of the quarterly Artist Lecture Series co-sponsored by the Museum and the Department of Art and Art History.


Exhibition Reception
5:00-7:30 p.m. -  At the de Saisset Museum

Join us for the public reception of Virgin Landscape: Representations of Women and the American West.


Both events are free. No RSVP required.

In Focus: Photographs by Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, and Judy Dater

Santa Clara University students involved in the curation of this exhibition, offer short essays to provide more background on five photographers featured in this exhibition.

Read their essays here.

Students respond to Virgin Landscape

Students from Robin Tremblay-McGaw's Winter 2017 class in SCU's Department of English offer reviews and reflections on the exhibition:
Review by Colleen Fairlee
Review by Samantha Sy