Visual Arts

Curious Terrain on Exhibit at WCU Fine Art Museum

 Rolling up Rows of Mulch Fabric, Erastus, North Carolina. Alex S. MacLean, artist

Rolling up Rows of Mulch Fabric, Erastus, North Carolina. Alex S. MacLean, artist

Through May 1, the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center presents Curious Terrain: WNC from the Air, an exhibition of aerial photographs by Alex S. MacLean. There will be a reception for the exhibition on Thursday, March 19, from 5–7 p.m., including a gallery talk by MacLean at 5:45 p.m.

Curious Terrain was developed in conjunction with Western Carolina University’s 2019/2020 campus theme of Environment & Sustainability. WCU commissioned MacLean to take aerial photographs of the region’s seven westernmost counties. “The project to photograph the WNC region from the air started as an effort to understand how environmental issues involving land use play out on a local level,” says Carolyn Grosch, curator of collections and exhibitions at the WCU Fine Art Museum. “The curatorial team was curious to know what aspects of our region’s built environment reflect wider trends throughout the United States, and what is specific to our topography and history here in Western North Carolina.”

An artist and pilot, MacLean has been taking aerial photographs for more than 45 years. “I enjoy the seemingly limitless perspectives of surveying the earth from above, as well as the exploring you can do while moving through three-dimensional space,” he says. “It is interesting to see settlement patterns and how people respond to the land, in regards to both climate and natural features.” MacLean said he was particularly intrigued by the settlement patterns in WNC, which are unique because of narrow valleys and limited interconnections. “Settlement is very linear and mostly along valley corridors,” he says.“I hope that the collection of photographs will draw attention to the unique geographic and cultural aspects of the region, and help people think more about land use and preserving WNC’s unique character.”

The WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center is located at 199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee. For information, call 828-227-ARTS or visit Following its run at Western Carolina University, the exhibition will travel to the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, NC in fall 2020.

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