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January 2017

de Saisset's New Exhibit Virgin Landscape to open Jan. 20

Virgin Landscape explores the connections between women and the American West

de Saisset's New Exhibit Virgin Landscape explores the connections between women and the American West

SANTA CLARA, Calif., January 10, 2017 — The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University will present Virgin Landscape: Representations of Women and the American West, on view Jan. 20 to March 19, 2017.

Virgin Landscape focuses on the intersections between the experience of women and the treatment of the environment in the American West. Historically, the term "virgin" has been used to describe both women and landscapes. Relating the construct of virginity to women and landscapes perpetuates notions of ownership over pure, untouched territories.

This exhibition juxtaposes the scope of virgin lands with the rise of women in the American West, prompting audiences to re-examine the traditional view of the American West as a frontier of opportunity, through a selection of photographs from the de Saisset Museum’s permanent collection that are of and about women, as well as portraits and landscapes taken by women.   

The exhibition showcases works by renowned photographers from various eras, including Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and Judy Dater. These featured photographers relate to key points in the photographic history of the American West. Adams and Cunningham were members of F64, a group of San Francisco photographers known for their sharp-focused images and western viewpoint. Lange is well known for her photographs during her time as a government-commissioned FSA photographer during the Great Depression, while Dater challenges traditional conceptions of the female body.

Virgin Landscape is guest curated by Dr. Bridget Gilman with the assistance of Santa Clara University students from the Spring 2016 Art History course Photography and the American West. The students are Jessica Andzouana, Tessie Berghoff, Maddie Burke, Jaime Daigle, Ciaran Freeman, Sarah Fisch, Stephen Hua, Emily Mun, Leigh Pond, Veronica Ribeiro, and Kate Yanish.

On Feb. 3 there will be an exhibition lecture from 3:30-5 p.m. in the new Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building, featuring exhibiting artist Janet Delaney in conversation with Dr. Gilman and two SCU students involved in curating the exhibition. The discussion is followed by a public reception from 5-7:30 p.m at the de Saisset Museum. Both events are free and open to the public.   Also on view will be a selection of paintings and posters from the museum’s permanent collection by artist Robert Fried from the 1960s and 1970s.

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

About the de Saisset Museum
The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University is the South Bay’s free museum of art and history. The museum was founded adjacent to the Mission Santa Clara de Asís on the Santa Clara University campus in 1955 and is one of only three museums in the South Bay accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The de Saisset Museum supports Santa Clara University’s goal of educating the whole person through a diverse and accessible range of exhibitions, collections, and educational programs that highlight the art and history of the San Francisco Bay Area. As a center for lifelong learning, the de Saisset facilitates discovery, experience, and inspiration through engaging objects of art and history.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

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