Photography exhibit 'Wanderlust' exposes travel's indelible influence on American identity 

Wanderlust: Travel and American Photography
7 p.m. Friday, Opening reception
On display through Sept. 12
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Avenue, Norman
$5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children 6-17

With the sun shining, many Americans are once again feeling the itch to pack their suitcases and hit the road.

"Wanderlust: Travel and American Photography," a photo exhibit debuting Friday at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, explores the role of travel in shaping the nation's identity through snapshots taken during the journey.

Curator Mark White said the original purpose for the exhibit was simple: to showcase some of the university's private works that had not been recently displayed. Travel was a natural fit for a summer theme, so organizers started amassing pieces documenting early road trips across the country. But as the exhibit came together, a greater statement began to form.

"(The exhibit) shows how integral travel is to modern American character; the way in which much of what we think about ourselves as Americans is attached to our mobility," White said. "We begin to see the strong connective tissue form that will link the nation together, and much of our nation's identity has resulted from the increased mobility and travel this allowed."

"Wanderlust" includes photographs that document the development of the American highways and interstates, focusing largely on progress made from the 1940s through the 1980s. Two of the more integral components come from Berenice Abbott's "Route 1" and "American Roads" collections.

"There's this sense that ... the kind of eclectic life one might experience along the interstates really does make up the diversity of the American experience," White said of the wide range of images in "American Roads."

The exhibit is given a human face with selections from Dennis Stock's "James Dean: A Memorial Portfolio," which tracks the legendary actor's trek from New York to his hometown in Indiana.

"The idea of travel is very personal," White said, "and 'Dean' personalized the exhibit in a way that it hadn't been personalized."

White said "Wanderlust" also explores the progression of travel brought by faster cars, higher speed limits and the more-recent focus of "getting there in good time." The exhibit is a throwback to a time when the journey was just as important as the destination.

"In some ways, our conception of time and travel is very different now," he said. "By necessity, (we) went slower, and you looked for things along the way." "?Joshua Boydston

photo Dennis Stock's untitled photo of James Dean posing in a coffin.

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