SEEING THE ELEPHANT

 

kbridge

Foster’s Raid: Battlefield of Kinston Bridge
Media: Mixed Media on Paper
Size: 48 x 48 inches
Date: 1996
Collection: Asheville Art Museum

American history is travelogue. Returning from South America in 1804 Alexander von Humboldt met with political and scientific leaders in Philadelphia, stating the need for artists to accompany scientific and military expeditions that had begun to explore and map the continent. Charting water-routes and wagon-roads, the Army was soon followed by pioneers and settlers, who described the terrors and wonders they beheld along the way as “seeing the elephant”. The expression was used by Civil War soldiers to characterize the firsthand experience of battle. From 1991 until 1998 McElhinney painted the battlefields of the South as a way of exploring how memory and transformation shape American terrain. He is revisiting this project, while embarking on new projects dealing with Western to explore how mapping and mobility transform the landscape. Personal logs, visual journals and oral histories will be assembled into exhibitions, books, lectures and updates below under the heading of New Works