Inspired by our collective urge to return outside after a period of hibernation, this focus exhibition presents 20 photographs by 11 artists from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). In the museum’s intimately scaled Teresa Lozano Long Gallery, large contemporary prints of lush landscapes mingle with exquisite vintage black-and-white flower studies. Other photographs on view depict figures traversing beaches, deserts, rainforests, and the coastlines of rivers and lakes. The installation demonstrates how artists passionately explore nature’s scientific phenomena and visual complexity, as well as its role as the wellspring for all human experience.
Women actively participated in the development of photography from the time of its introduction in 1839. In the medium’s earliest years, women advanced botanical illustration in particular. Until the 1970s, their contributions were largely overlooked, and very few museums acquired their photographs in substantial numbers. Photography is one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of NMWA’s collection; more than half of the artworks featured in Return to Nature are being exhibited for the first time.