The Invention of the American Desert: Art, Land, and the Politics of Environment

Front Cover
Lyle Massey, James Nisbet
University of California Press, 2021 - Deserts in art - 296 pages
Long viewed as a tabula rasa, the deserts of the American West have played a distinct role in the projection of American cultural identities. Historically represented through fantasies of individualism, frontier ruggedness, and land acquisition, the desert is also the site of extreme social and environmental violence. The Invention of the American Desert brings together a wide-ranging group of interdisciplinary essays that explore, through diverse perspectives, dialectical problems posed by an environment that has served as a testing ground for modernist experimentation in art and architecture, military-industrial incursions, and ecological disasters throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In light of the urgent climate crisis and the planet's increasing desertification, this volume reflects on the nature and legacy of the desert as a crucible for competing visions of land, environment, and art.

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About the author (2021)

Lyle Massey is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Picturing Space, Displacing Bodies: Anamorphosis in Early Modern Theories of Perspective and the editor of The Treatise on Perspective: Published and Unpublished.



James Nisbet is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s.

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