Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Spahr, Robert


North America, the United States in particular, has established an unique and distinct connection to the the wildspaces outside of urban environments. The two spaces, urban and wilderness, are placed in opposition to one another in a sliding valuation scale that is based on the degradation experienced in these urban areas, due to industrialized capitalist means of production, by the inhabitants. These effects are the source of both literary and visual art protests that originate in the 19th century in both generations of the Hudson River School painters, American pastoral writing, philosophy, and photographs. These romanticized views of natural space and out interactions with natural spaces create a deeply sentimental and mythic connection to America's wilderness. This spurs the creation of the National and State Parks and Forests systems that preserve and embalm the idealistic settings for industrialized man to commune with wilderness. These spaces, however, are inherently flawed in their construction and execution. This fact began my investigation into what American society presents as natural, or in some cases, more natural, in the Parks and public lands systems and natural history museums. I argue that the three works presented in my thesis are linked to the greater American pastoral art tradition, but engage wild spaces as a means to create a critical discourse into the authenticity of the ideals established by previous authors and artists. This claim is supported historically through links in methodology and subject matter, but depart from the Romantic and Modernist systems of representation in that my work reveals the manipulated structures that construct both the parks systems and the natural history museums.




This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.