The history of exploration and exploitation in the American West will be the focus of the multi-site exhibition, “Public Lands, Private Hands: An Exhibition Depicting the Exploration and Exploitation of the American West,” open Monday, May 6, through Monday, May 13, in the Lewis Arts Complex CoLab and the Princeton University Art Museum Works on Paper Study Room. The exhibition is organized by photographer Fazal Sheikh, the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities in the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). The exhibition will continue to be open at the Museum on weekends through June 9, 2019.

Related to the exhibition, tribal leaders and Native American community activists from Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona will gather at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, in the CoLab to speak about the status of Bears Ears National Monument — which was drastically reduced in 2017 — and their relationship with the sacred lands on which they live. A roundtable discussion at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 9, in the CoLab will address the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The CoLab installation will feature Sheikh’s original photographs documenting the ruination of the Utah landscape by uranium mining, oil and gas extraction, and the militarization of the desert. Artworks by Princeton students in Sheikh’s Spring 2019 environmental studies/visual arts course, “Exposure: The Storied Landscape of Bears Ears National Monument and America’s Public Lands,” will expose the mythologies of preservation politics and interrogate histories of displacement and return. Also on display will be photographs drawn from the University’s collections that document Native American villages across the Southwest, railroad and mining projects, and mission schools.

At the art museum, photographs of missionaries and miners will serve as a backdrop to a selection of Indigenous belongings displaced by the first generation of European pilgrims, ambient sound recorded in the Utah desert, and a recorded testimony by Navajo spiritual leader Jonah Yellowman, who was instrumental in the 2016 creation of Bears Ears National Monument by President Barack Obama. Click here to learn more about the exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum.


The exhibition and events are sponsored by PEI with additional funding provided by the University Center for Human Values, Humanities Council, the Undergraduate Student Government Projects Board, the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

The exhibition is organized by Fazal Sheikh, Eduardo Cadava, India Rael Young, and Federica Soletta in collaboration with students Mashad Arora, Emmy Bender, Kara Bressler, Julianne Knott, Olivia Kusio, Isabelle Kuziel, Emily McLean, McGinnis Miller, Kate Schassler, Peter Schmidt, and Joanna Zhang.

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The CoLab is located on the Forum (street) level of the Wallace Dance Building at the Lewis Arts complex, 122 Alexander Street, Princeton. View map of Lewis Arts complex

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Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Council of the Humanities
  • University Center for Human Values
  • Carl A. Fields Center
  • Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice
  • Undergraduate Student Government Projects Board
  • Princeton Environmental Institute
  • Princeton University Art Museum