Saturday, June 13, 2015

Museum of the West: Lewis and Clark Exhibition


The Museum of the West opened in Scottsdale last December. I had been interested in checking it out and finally made this month. They aren't a museum of Arizona, but more about the forces that shaped the western United States, mostly depicted through art. And the art is mostly what you think of as realistic, western paintings, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. They were really well done. So I am going to do two blog entries. The first is the beginning of the museum and the special exhibition of Lewis and Clark. The second will be the rest of the museum. Lots of photos of paintings. So if you aren't interested, you can just skip it.
First, the museum is really interesting outside. They have these xeriscape plantings with the rocks, bigger rocks, all laid in lines, and patterns, not just randomly arranged. It was cool.

 And the sidewalk has this cool tendril pattern etched in it.
This sculpture of metal and dichroic glass is to represent a cactus blossom.

There are a lot of bronzes in the museum, starting with this one outside. They are really amazing in person. There is an incredible amount of texture, feeling and emotion that they have been able to get out metal. I was very impressed.

Looks like leather, all metal.

Your "ticket" is a sticker that looks like a badge star.

Loved this sculpture.

This exhibit was all about one artist, who took the journals of Lewis and Clark, and revisited the sites described. He then painted the scenes they described from the actual sites, at the same time of year. He spent 10 years doing this. It's a lot of paintings and a lot of dedication, and frankly, way more interesting than it sounds. He took into account what the men were feeling like at these different points in the expedition. I didn't expect to care that much and it turned out fascinating, a history lesson in paintings.
He starts with them looking fresh, excited and the beginning of their trip.

The men start in uniforms and the boat looks all new.

Throughout are bronzes that depict the various Native American peoples they encountered.

 Here, early on, again still in uniforms, meeting with I think Mandan's.
The expedition had one death, from a burst appendix, a lethal condition in the early 1800's. This depicts the sadness as they bear their comrade to a final resting place.

 You can see their boats on the river, and what the area looked like.
Another visit to an Indian tribe. All their interactions were peaceful, except one on their way back.

Buffalo hunt. Buffalo were new to them.

 I think this was a crow burial they came across.
Sacajawea is in the foreground here. She was prominent throughout the paintings, depicting her great role. 

An Indian tribe had told them about a great bear in the area, a grizzley. They did not think it would be a problem for them with their guns. They shot 6 times and still had to run. They did not kill the bear.

Beautiful cliffs and light.

York was a Black man who came along as a personal servant for the two men. According to the records, he was also instrumental in the success of the journey. I had not heard of him before.

York in a painting.

Passing landmarks.

 Many places, the boat had to be pulled. Back breaking work.
They were in an area unknown to their race and many times had to debate about what route to take.

 The great falls on the Missouri, impressive.

You can see the men, so small, on the bluff.

Portaging the canoes and boats was a much greater task than they anticipated.


They thought it would take them a half day, took them weeks.

Beautiful country.

When the reached the Shoshone people, Sacajawea was very happy. She had not been around her own people in many years. 

This is a small detail of a larger painting, where they are trying to approach some Crow Indians and show themselves as peaceful.

 This is an interesting description of the following painting, a four way translation.

Winter was rough and the terrain very difficult.

It was almost impossible to get their equipment over the mountains.

The Indians showed them a better way to make the canoes, instead of carving them from logs, burning the insides out.

Portaging around rough waters.

 The Indians watched them run rough water, expecting them to wreck and drown and to benefit from their wreckage. They were amazed they made it through.

The sight of Mt. Hood in the distance was exhilarating. They knew they were getting close to their goal of the pacific ocean.

Seeing the effect of tides on the river, almost there.

Made it to the ocean! Success.

The dog, a black lab, was also with them the entire trip.

 They built Ft. Clatsop on the Oregon coast and spent the winter. Negotiating with the Clatsop Indians. I have been to this place.

They were miserable through the winter. They went to the coast to see if they could find a beached whale and use the blubber.

On the journey back, an encounter with a Crow Indian resulted in their shooting and killing him. The next several days, they raced to put a 100 miles between them and the Crows, as they feared reprisals.

Journey back.

This depicts Sacajawea, her French fur trapper husband and child. 

This rock is where Lewis and Clark carved their names on the way back. Many other travelers did too, afterwards. It is now a national monument.

The men and boat is in much different shape after almost two years.
People were astonished to see them back. They were thought to have died.

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