On exhibit: 200 years of Tahoe art

By Ann Lindemann · 


Pin River, Tahoe Watershed | Maya Lin · 

An unprecedented new exhibit featuring 200 years of art expressing the Tahoe experience goes on display on Aug. 22 at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nev.

The “TAHOE: A Visual History” exhibit, which is accompanied by a book by the same name, took five years to create and will be on display until Jan. 10, 2016. It presents historical paintings, Native baskets, photography, architecture and contemporary art that interpret Lake Tahoe, Donner Pass and the surrounding Sierra Nevada.

The book includes nearly 500 illustrations and about 80 percent of the objects will be on view in the exhibition, said Ann Wolfe, senior curator and deputy director


Eagle Rock at Lakeside Park | Putnam & Valentine · 

“The exhibition is truly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these art works in the same place at the same time,” Wolfe explains. “It is very unlikely that they will ever be together in the same place again.”

She notes that it’s easy to conjure a mental image of art in Yosemite, Yellowstone and New York’s Hudson River Valley thanks to the many books and exhibits dedicated to these scenic locales.

“The same cannot be said for the vicinity of Lake Tahoe,” Wolfe says. “This exhibit, and accompanying book, surveys the contributions of hundreds of artists who have made work in or about the region.”

Not surprisingly, Wolfe believes that art is key to our collective sense of place.

“I don’t believe you can really know a place – celebrate it or examine it critically – without a shared or collective understanding of its art history. Art produced in and about a place helps define its cultural identity.”


Tahoe Lake Region, 1927 | Maurice Logan · 

Wolfe promises that the breadth of the exhibit will surprise even the most well-versed Tahoe aficionados. She says many of America’s most well-known artists have produced art in this region, particularly in the 19th Century. However, she adds that the majority of this artwork is unknown as it comes from private and museum collections outside the region and has never been seen publicly.

With such a comprehensive exhibition, are there any pieces that Wolfe advises attendees not to miss? It’s a tough question, but Wolfe has a few suggestions.


Summit CPRR, Winter of 1872 | Albert Bierstadt · 

She says one should plan to take some time viewing a 6 x 10-foot painting of Donner Lake from the Summit painted in 1876 by Albert Bierstadt. The piece was commissioned by railroad executive Collis P. Huntington and is on loan from the New York Historical Society.


Lodge Type Cabin, Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, 1923 | Frank Lloyd Wright ·

Additionally, she urges attendees to not miss original drawings by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for a summer colony he proposed for Emerald Bay in 1923.

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy components of the exhibit is the largest assembly of Washoe baskets ever in an art museum.

“This includes a number of Louisa Keyser masterpiece baskets,” Wolfe adds. “Keyser was the famed Washoe weaver who was known to the world as Dat-so-la-lee. She wove over 300 baskets in her lifetime, sometimes with as many as 35 stitches per inch.”

At press time the installation was still in progress, but early observers were vocal in their praise for both the exhibition and the book. Wolfe says people are enthused and believe that the joint project “puts our region on the map culturally and establishes our significance within the larger American art world.”

These types of comments are music to Wolfe’s ears, who feels that art produced in and about a place helps define its cultural identity.

“Without knowledge or shared understanding of a region’s art and history, it is impossible to celebrate or critically examine its contribution to the broader culture.”


The Old Pine, circa 1930–32 | Frances Gearhart · 

More than 15 contemporary artists will be featured alongside historical notables. The NMA has commissioned a number of works for the show including three sculptures by internationally celebrated artist Maya Lin. Lin’s pieces reflect the annual precipitation in the Tahoe watershed and water clarity.


Beaded degikup, circa 1965 | Celia Arnot · 

The exhibit features sections on Native Basketry of Lake Tahoe, Historical Mapping and Early Sketches, Historical Painting: Lake Tahoe in the 19th Century, and 150 Years of Lake Tahoe Photography. Additionally, attendees will get to view Architecture of the Lake: 1900 to the Present and Contemporary Artists Visualize the Future.

In addition to the exhibit, the museum co-produced a documentary with KNPB to explore the themes and highlights of the exhibition. The documentary is showing in the gallery and will be broadcast on KNPB in Reno.


For more information on the exhibit and the accompanying book, visit nevadaart.org.

“TAHOE: A Visual History”

Aug. 22-Jan. 10 | Nevada Museum of Art
Aug. 22
10:30 a.m. | Maya Lin talk “What is Missing and Lake Tahoe”
6 p.m. | Curator Ann M. Wolfe talk
6 p.m. | Members’ Premiere Gala

Sept. 11
Noon | Geen Hattori on Native American Baskets of Lake Tahoe

Sept. 12
10 a.m.-6 p.m. | Hands ON! Second Saturdays Family Day
Sept. 13
9 a.m.-noon | Echo Lake hike with Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Sept. 17
6 p.m. | Art historian Alfred Harrison on Lake Tahoe’s 19th Century Artistic Heritage

Sept. 17-Oct. 8
Thursdays | “Tahoe: A Visual History” Learning to Look class

Sept. 18
Noon | Alfred Harrison on Albert Bierstadt’s Lake Tahoe paintings

Sept. 19
10 a.m.-2 p.m. | Miniature Pine Needle Baskets class

Sept. 25
Noon | Wright Sherman on the Tahoe City Transit Center & the Future of Transportation in Tahoe

Sept. 30
9 a.m.-noon | Mount Rose hike with Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Oct. 2
Noon | Michael Branch on John Muir’s Tahoe journal

Oct. 4
9 a.m.-noon | Donner Summit hike with Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Oct. 9
Noon | Meet artist Phyllis Shafer
6 p.m. | Performance of original composition of Jean-Paul Perrotte

Oct. 10
8 a.m.-4 p.m. | Plein Air workshop with Phyllis Shafer

Oct. 14
9 a.m.-noon | Kingsbury Grade hike with Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Oct. 16
Noon | Alan Hess on Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs for the unbuilt Lake Tahoe Summer Colony
6 p.m. | Curator Ann M. Wolfe on Early Lake Tahoe Photography

Oct. 23
Noon | Lordy Rodriguez on Drawing Lake Tahoe

Oct. 24
9 a.m.-noon | Visiting Artist workshop with Lordy Rodriguez
7:30-11 p.m. | Electric Wagon Train gala

Oct. 29
6 p.m. | Marvin Cohodas on the Native Basketry of Lake Tahoe

Oct. 30
Noon-4 p.m. | Bring Your Native Baskets to be examined by experts

Nov. 6
Noon | Catherine Fowler & Darla Gary-Sage on Washoe Functional Basketry

Nov. 7 & 8
10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Washoe Burden Basking Weaving class

Nov. 13
Noon | Alfred Harrison on Lorenzo Latimer at Lake Tahoe

Nov. 14
10 a.m.-6 p.m. | Hands ON! Second Saturday Family Day

Nov. 19
6 p.m. | The Folk & The Lore: Stories of Lake Tahoe

Dec. 4
Noon | Shelley Fisher Fishkin on the role of Chinese workers in the transcontinental railroad

Dec. 5
10 a.m.-2 p.m. | Miniature Pine Needle Baskets class

Dec. 10
6 p.m. | Bill Fox on Historical Mapping & Early Sketches of Lake Tahoe

Dec. 11
Noon | Erika Osborne’s commissioned work in Lake Tahoe

Jan. 8
Noon | Artists Tom Killion on Prints & Printmakers of Lake Tahoe

Jan. 14
6 p.m. | Colin M. Robertson on the Architectural Heritage of Lake Tahoe