Artifact Title: Matter Transformed
Artwork Title: Virginia Dare
Location: Rome, Italy
Artist: Louisa Lander
Current Location: Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, North Carolina
Image Credit: Hillary Kaell, September 2022
TERA Curator: Hillary Kaell
A common expression is “no matter is created or destroyed, just transformed.” Now consider this photo of the statue of Virginia Dare at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. The first English baby born in the Americas in 1587, Virginia almost certainly died with the rest of the settlers shortly after their arrival. In the mid-nineteenth century, Louise Lander of Salem, Massachusetts, sculpted the statue in her studio in Rome, imagining Virginia as she might have grown up. A century later, the statue was installed in the Elizabethan gardens, another bit of historical revisionism where visitors were meant to imagine what the English settlers might have built had they lived. In this reverie, settlers tame nature into a formal ornamental garden on an aristocratic scale. Virginia becomes an “Indian princess,” to quote the Garden website, with the physique of a Greek god. The dead are transformed. Matter is manipulated into a vision of White settlers triumphant over material elements that, in fact, they could not conquer.