August 25, 2020–July 18, 2021

Image of a surrealist desert landscape, featuring two hands emerging from the earth and a red EXIT sign.
Andrea Carlson (Anishinaabe [Ojibwe], French, Scandinavian, born 1979), EXIT, 2018, Screenprint. Purchase, Trinkett Clark Memorial Student Acquisition Fund.

About the Exhibition

Founding Narratives presents artworks produced in the United States between 1800 and today that offer opportunities to consider the role of art in creating, reinforcing, and challenging stories about national identity. Drawn entirely from the Mead Art Museum’s extensive collection of American art, the exhibition raises questions about representation and the absence of representation in national narratives and in the establishment of a national art, about the significance of “firsts,” and about the interpretative frameworks that museums offer about artists and artworks.

The exhibition (which will be slightly modified for the spring 2021 semester) provides a foundation for public engagement with historical and contemporary US art. An online version of the show will be created and more information will be added to the Mead’s website during the run of the exhibition. We welcome collaboration with students, faculty, and community members. Please contact Emily Potter-Ndiaye ( about course collaborations. For all else, contact the exhibition’s curator, Lisa Crossman (

Featured artists are Andrea Carlson, Thomas Cole, Deborah Dancy, Robert S. Duncanson, June Edmonds, Lee Norman Friedlander, Martin Johnson Heade, Edward Hicks, Orra White Hitchcock, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gilbert Stuart, and Richard Yarde.

We're pleased to offer a virtual tour of this exhibition. Click here to view art up close, read wall labels, listen to audio recordings, and watch video clips from Founding Narratives.