Fourteen large scale canvases after Frederic Church’s Niagara from the American Side, which have been installed outdoors to collect environmental wear and graffiti. Church's vision of the grandiosity of nature is recontextualized by Wege's intervention, leaving the classic landscape painting vulnerable in public spaces where it can be exposed to damage. These installations invoke a feeling of responsibility in the viewer, to protect the fragile environment.
The paintings are only truly considered complete after they have collected a certain amount of wear, determined by the artist. Thus they exist in a plurality of painting styles, from landscape painting to graffiti art, spanning from the industrial revolution to the present day.
Sacred Site at Olana
Sacred Site presents a rare opportunity to encounter the full scale and impact of Frederic Church’s monumental canvases in the landscape he designed at Olana. The installation comprises twelve replicated works created by Diana Wege, who engaged with Church’s Niagara Falls, from the American Side (1867) over a decade. Just as Church’s large-scale paintings called 19th-century audiences to wonder at nature’s awe-inspiring power, this project calls us to consider the connections between humanity, nature, public land, and personal inspiration. Sacred Site is free to view at Olana State Historic Site every day from 8 AM until sunset until October 31, 2022.
Church’s awe-inspiring subject matter, Niagara Falls, and the scale of his original artwork captures the power and fragility of the natural world. The eight canvases on the right side of the Mount Merino overlook are faithful to the colors of Church’s original, while the four on the left are intended as “variations on a theme” and emphasize abstract qualities of Church’s imagery. Each of the twelve canvases were meticulously hand-painted by Wege. The twelve works flank Mt. Merino, a forested spot in Olana’s historic viewshed that was protected from development in 2008. Placing the works at this significant location in Church’s designed landscape calls attention to the vulnerability of our environments and the importance of land stewardship.
For Wege, these twelve paintings ask viewers to contemplate the spiritual significance of land and landscape. Just as the Churches were deeply curious about world religions and collected artifacts of Islam, Jainism, and Buddhism, among others, Wege’s work emerged from her interactions with global faith traditions and their contact with the divine in nature. These objects collectively create a “sacred site” for contemplation of the natural world around us.