Stark Museum opens ‘Lands Fit for the Camel’
The Stark Museum of Art in Orange, Texas announces the opening of a new special exhibit Lands Fit for the Camel: Images from the Mexican Boundary Surveys. This exhibit explores landscape imagery resulting from the United States War with Mexico of 1846-1848 and the resulting boundary surveys. Sketches in oil and illustrations in rare books, which documented additions to the United States territory in southwestern North America, will be on display. The exhibit will be on view from Jan. 22 through April 16.
On the opening day of the exhibit, Saturday, Jan. 22, the Museum will present Great Explorers Family Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Family Day activities will include games, storytelling, art-making and a visit with live camels from the Texas Camel Corps.
“Warfare, art and science came together in the mid-nineteenth century. The United States and Mexico fought over territory, but these lands were not well known. To collect scientific information, the Army assigned topographical engineers and a civilian artist to collect data as military troops marched from New Mexico to California,” explained Sarah Boehme, Stark Museum of Art Director.
The exhibit features six oil sketches by artist John Mix Stanley who accompanied the United States Army of the West. Stanley’s paintings were used as illustrations for the published report by Lieut. Col. William H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, which is included in the exhibit.
After the war, the boundary surveys also included the collecting of scientific information and visual imagery of the geography, minerals, plants and animals of the region. Two illustrated publications resulting from the surveys will be included in the exhibit. Boundary commissioner John Russell Bartlett published his Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, During the Years 1850, ’51, ’52, and ’53. William H. Emory served as author for the official government publication, Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey.
“We invite visitors to experience this moment of history. This exhibit takes us back to a time when the United States had expansionist plans to span the continent. The government, however, did not know a great deal about the unfamiliar desert lands and needed information about what was there and how to approach it,” commented Boehme.
Commissioner Bartlett, after surveying in the desert, wrote a chapter in his book recommending the importation of camels for transportation use in the American Southwest. He wrote, “There are peculiarities in the arid plains and deserts of North America which seem to fit them for the habits of the camel.” The United States Army did briefly bring camels to North America to cope with the difficulties of travel across desert lands.
The exhibit includes an education area with an interactive puzzle and children’s books. Visitors can learn about camels and their role in United States history.
Located at 712 Green Avenue in Orange, Texas, the Stark Museum of Art is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for all ages. Group tours are available by appointment. For more information call 409-886-ARTS (2787) or visit www.starkmuseum.org.