Nature and the Nation: Hudson River School Landscape Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum Anyone who has looked at enough of them knows that landscapes are never innocent mirrors of the land. The landscape is perhaps the most loaded of all painting genres, as it reveals not only the aesthetic practices of its age but also the ideological investment a nation has in its land. This exhibition of about 50 canvases reveals some of what the land meant for Americans in the mid-nineteenth century. The land symbolized promise, certainly, and its beauty and wealth were taken as visual revelations of Manifest Destiny. But the land was also the site of conflict, both philosophical and physical. Here are some of the most beautiful, and most revealing, landscapes ever produced in this country, from Asher B. Durand's romantic views of the Hudson Valley to Frederic Church's dramatic grand visions to Thomas Cole's subtle philosophical convictions about how people could and should live in a balance with nature. The exhibition contains vital lessons about this nation's complex relationship to land, and all that it represents. Through September 11 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Fri. till 9 p.m.)
Savage X Michelle X has reinterpreted tarot card imagery using live models and staged photographic tableaux. The images are dark and vaguely sadomasochistic -- bare breasts, someone licking the barrel of a gun, and the like. Added to this are "new" interpretations of the seven deadly sins and the seven righteous virtues. Strictly for the least discriminating of the Goth set -- and even they will have seen it all before, via Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor. Through August 31 at the 3rd Floor Gallery, 1214 Washington Avenue; 314-241-1010. Gallery hours noon-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat.
Christina Shmigel: Chinese Garden for the Delights of Roaming Afar This third installment in the Kranzberg Exhibition Series brings Shmigel back to St. Louis from Shanghai, where she has spent the past two years. She's been missed, but the change of scenery has done incredible things to her visual sensibility. The exhibition unfolds as the visitor passes through the galleries. Framing elements are a leitmotif: A floating pavilion sets the stage, showing photographs of bamboo scaffolding -- a leitmotif taken from the constant formal flux of Shanghai, a city evidently under permanent reconfiguration. Photos of text messages evoke the city's chaos of communication, but this gives way to calmer, more contemplative and intimate encounters with light, shadow, text and cityscapes. The artist's signature connecting-pipe circuitry pops up here and there, transformed by this new context. Somehow Shmigel manages to make a hundred disparate strains coalesce in a delightful experience of another world, recognizable and yet far from home. Through August 30 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. -- Ivy Cooper