The exhibition asks how the presentation of a museum’s collection can address issues of national identity. Divided into seven sections, it explores the many ways that early American and modern art have emerged from the crossing of boundaries—from physical borders to concepts of identity.
The exhibition focuses on the many ways that art expresses the power of boundaries: making, breaking, crossing, drawing, and erasing. The works gathered here reflect on the cultural, sociological, and geographical boundaries that are drawn and redrawn through the various historical phases of that political state. In a more abstract sense, the art also represents the permeability of the borders between individuals and between beliefs as the country undergoes ceaseless transformation. Cole Porter’s 1934 song, “Don’t Fence Me In,” resonates with Grant Wood’s 1935 painting, Death on the Ridge Road, both of which serve as a starting point for the exploration of these ideas. Cole Porter bought the painting when it was first exhibited (in 1935) and gave it to the College in 1947.