Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum explores history and art of mining in the American West in upcoming exhibition

Phoenix Art Museum explores history and art of mining in the American West in upcoming exhibition

Phoenix Art Museum explores history and art of mining in the American West in upcoming exhibition
Jun, 02, 2021

Exhibitions and Special InstallationsAmerican and Western American ArtSpecial Engagement Exhibitions

Phoenix Art Museum explores history and art of mining in the American West in upcoming exhibition

Landscapes of Extraction presents a century of art inspired by the mining industry and its impact on the region

PHOENIX (June 2, 2021) –Phoenix Art Museum will premiere a new exhibition on November 7, 2021 that examines the history, impact, and art of mining in the western United States. Landscapes of Extraction: The Art of Mining in the American West explores the evolution of the art of mining, featuring more than 65 works created from the 1910s through today that depict regional landscapes of enterprise and examine how mining has altered the natural environment on a spectacular scale. Organized by Phoenix Art Museum and curated by Betsy Fahlman, PhD, the institution’s adjunct curator of American art, Landscapes of Extraction will be the first major exhibition of Western American art at the Museum since The West Select presented in 2014.

“We are excited to present Landscapes of Extraction to our community,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “The modern history of Arizona as a U.S. state is inextricably linked to the expansion of mining across the Southwest. The industry provided thousands of jobs and contributed to the expansion of our cities, but mining also contributed to the pollution of our environment and created health risks for workers and surrounding communities. In many ways, the exhibition traces that evolution of our understanding through art, beginning with WPA-era paintings that honored the grit of workers against the backdrop of the Depression, to Edward Burtynsky’s ecologically aware photographs of the lasting impact of mining on our world.”

Throughout modern history, the mining industry has transformed the American West, competing with the scenic landscape on its own terms. In the first half of the 20th century, large-scale and open pit mines across Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah dramatically altered the natural environment and dictated the lives of those who worked in them, with cyclical booms that provided employment for generations of families and economic crashes that often left ghost towns and mass unemployment in their wake. Over the decades, mining has continued to shape natural landscapes across the western United States, creating stunning views in their own right. Public knowledge on the destructive environmental and health effects of mines, however, has increased, revealing the vexed legacy of the industry.

Through more than 65 paintings and prints, Landscapes of Extraction explores the modern evolution of mining imagery, illuminating how artists have interpreted and conveyed these landscapes of enterprise from the 1910s to the present. The exhibition begins with works from the early- to mid-20th century, when artists such as Lew Davis, Philip C. Curtis, Paul Sample, and Louise Emerson Ronnebeck portrayed regional themes and industries in their work, inspired, in part, by New Deal programs during the 1930s and early 1940s. These paintings showcase images of open pit mines and coal tipples, the towns that grew up around mines and were abandoned when they closed, and the miners and their families who lived, worked, and toiled in those environments.

Contemporary works created into the 2010s stand in contrast by demonstrating how artists have, over time, become more attuned to the monumental impact that humans, technology, mining, and other industries have had on the natural world, with a number examining the ongoing legacy of pollution specifically. Works by artists such as Edward Burtynsky, whose work was featured in a survey exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum in 2016, as well as those by David Emitt Adams, Martin Stupich, and Robert Adams, explore the environmental costs of our global reliance on mined materials. The exhibition also includes a work by contemporary fine art photographer Cara Romero, an enrolled citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe who uses photography as a tool to resist Eurocentric narratives and spotlight the diversity of living Indigenous peoples. Titled Oil Boom (2015), Romero’s photograph stands as commentary on the experiences of Indigenous peoples globally who have been displaced from traditional lands for oil pipelines and other mining ventures, while also making a more universal statement about communities polluted by the industry.

Landscapes of Extraction offers a panoramic view of the art of mining in the American West that truly spans an entire century of change,” said Betsy Fahlman, PhD, who curated the exhibition. “Through this nuanced framework, we can examine the way artists have reflected society’s shifting perspectives and understanding of both the benefits and the dangers of mining, illuminating how a powerful regional narrative has become a fundamental element of national identity, manifested in natural geographies on a vast scale.”

About the Exhibition

Landscapes of Extraction: The Art of Mining in the American West will be on view from November 7, 2021 through March 6, 2022 in Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of Men’s Arts Council, Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, and Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers, with additional support from the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members. For details on the exhibition, visit

This special-engagement exhibition is free for Museum Members; youth aged 5 and younger; and veterans and active-duty military and their families through the Military Access Program at Phoenix Art Museum (MAP@PAM), made possible through the generosity of Dr. Hong and Doris Ong, Nancy Hanley Eriksson, and Shamrock Foods Foundation. During voluntary-donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 7 pm, made possible by SRP and supported in part through the generosity of the Angela and Leonard Singer Endowment for Performing Arts, and the first Friday of each month from 3 – 7 pm, general admission is pay what you wish, and admission to Landscapes of Extraction is $5. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, see

For high-resolution photography, click here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2105 or

About the Landscapes of Extraction Catalogue

Landscapes of Extraction: The Art of Mining in the American West will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue published by Hirmer Publishers (New York and Berlin). While the exhibition highlights the first half of the 20th century, the accompanying scholarly and fully illustrated catalogue will explore mining imagery from the mid-19th through the turn of the 20th century, including photographs of mining communities taken by photographers working for the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and 1940s and those by the Office of War Information taken during World War II. An essay on large-scale coal mining in Pennsylvania has strong parallels with what transpired in the West. The publication also includes an essay on the ways in which contemporary artists are investigating the environmental legacy of mining through their work. Contributors will include Barbara L. Jones, Chief Curator of the Westmoreland Museum of Art in Greensburg, PA; James R. Swensen, Associate Professor of Art History at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT;  and William L. Fox, Director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, NV. The publication will be edited by exhibition curator Betsy Fahlman, PhD, Adjunct Curator of American Art at Phoenix Art Museum and Professor of Art History at Arizona State University.

About Phoenix Art Museum

Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 350,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

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