By H. Haveman
It is the mission of New Mexico Arts (NMA), the state arts agency, to preserve, enhance, and develop the arts in New Mexico through partnerships, public awareness, and education, and to enrich the quality of life for present and future generations. It provides financial support for arts services and programs to non-profit organizations throughout the state and administers the 1% public art program, thereby building a dynamic public art collection for the State of New Mexico.
Each year, NMA partners with a local community to commission visually engaging, and conceptually rich environmental artworks to be displayed for a short-term exhibition in that community. The program, called TIME (Temporary Installations Made for the Environment), prompts artists to excite and involve audiences as participants. Public art promotes dialogue and collaboration among community members and artists, resulting in a dynamic and transformative process. At the end of the exhibit, the installations are disassembled and removed, leaving no trace of their existence. TIME coordinator, Eileen Braziel, says, “The new TIME goals are to gain regional, national, and international recognition for New Mexico artists . . . New Mexico Artists are now recognized for creating important land-sensitive art installations in unique locations. I believe art can speak louder than politics, and helps with creating necessary relationships within the state of New Mexico.”
This year’s TIME theme is Hózhó Náhásdlíí, Diné for Harmony in the Making. Art installations will be exhibited in various site-specific locations in the Navajo Nation, as well as in the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe. Native and non-Native artists worked together, along with cultural advisors, provided by the Navajo Nation Museum with sponsor, The Skylark Foundation, to produce this unique exhibition of culturally relevant and environmentally connected artwork. Navajo Nation Museum curator, Clarenda Begay, says it’s “the first of its kind on Navajo land.”
The Navajo Nation Museum will host an opening reception for the TIME exhibit on Friday, June 15, from 3 to 5 pm. Admission varies, but many installation sites are free of charge. The exhibit will run until September 15, 2012.
1) Will Wilson – “Auto Immune Response Laboratory 2”
Navajo Nation Zoo, Hwy. 264, Window Rock, AZ
Since 2005, Wilson has been creating a series of works entitled “Auto Immune Response,” which examines the quixotic relationship between a post-apocalyptic Diné (Navajo) man and the devastatingly beautiful, but toxic environment he inhabits. His TIME installation features a hogan-shaped metal greenhouse in which indigenous food and dye plants are grown. “My hope is that this project will serve as a pollinator, creating formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround us,” Wilson remarks.
2) Chrissie Orr, Bruce Hamilton, Susanna Carlisle and Robert Johnson – “Sọ’ Bik’ehgo Na’adá”
Navajo Nation Museum, Hwy. 246, Window Rock, AZ
This project, Navajo for We Live in Accordance With the Stars, was a collaboration with Navajo astronomer, Robert Johnson, to create an earth drawing inspired by the stars – a map of celestial bodies placed on the land. All materials and images are appropriate to the unique environment and cultural communities of the Navajo. These “fallen-to-earth” constellations act as a reflection for locally inspired symbols, images, and stories and bring together the wonders of the land with those of the universe and the local community.
3) Matthew Chase-Daniel – “Wool Pole”
Navajo Nation Museum, Hwy. 264, Window Rock, AZ
Wool Pole is part of Matthew Chase-Daniel’s ongoing series of site-specific pole sculptures, placed in environments around the world. Chase-Daniel worked with local master dyer, Mark Deschinny and others to create two pole sculptures with traditional Churro sheep wool, raised in the area and dyed in the four traditional Navajo colors. Chase-Daniel says, “I encouraged everyone to stop and visit and card and spin . . . Many stories were also shared, of helping grandmothers card as a child, or about life in the country with sheep, or about how spinning and weaving is integrated into, supported by, and supportive of traditional lifeways . . . This project is very dear to me for the cross-cultural ties which it has generated, for myself and others.”
4) Anna Tsouhlarakis – “Edges of the Ephemeral”
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, 108 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe, NM
This installation is about the mythology of the fifth world and what led up to the creation world. Tsouhlarakis intertwines man-made and natural objects along with video and audio components. In this project, she explores Navajo narratives of the future worlds and how we as a people might find harmony.
5) Don Redman – “Storm King”
McKinley Mine / Chevron Reclamation Site, Hwy. 264, Tse Bonito, NM
Redman designed a wind-powered, self-illuminating wind totem, (not) coincidentally, on top of a coal reclamation site. The large-scale kinetic piece turns so that viewers at a safe distance can still see its 360 degrees. During set-up, traffic was stopped alongside the highway and dispatchers received more than fifty 911 calls reporting a UFO. “To me, just the fact that people noticed it and called 911 means it was a success,” says Redman. The site is guarded, but there is a safe area to park and view the sculpture.
6) Shane Hendren – “Tse Ninajhi”
Holiday Inn, Canyon de Chelly, Garcia’s Trading Post, Chinle, AZ
Tse Ninajhi, cairns, have been employed by the Navajo people since long before contact with Europeans. Some of the uses for cairns were spiritual, as identifiers of water locations and as guide markers. Those constructed of stone have the longest physical life span but what really maintains their significance is their continued use by the people. This continued connection to the land and a place, by maintaining the cairn and passing on to future generations the purpose for its installation through oral tradition, ensures its purpose and life. Hendren suggests that visitors bring an offering to the cairn site and add to his interactive project.
7) Raven Chacon – “Singing Toward the Wind Now / Singing Toward the Sun Now”
Canyon de Chelly National Monument / Visitors Center, Chinle, AZ
Chacon’s installation is a series of four metal sculptures, which function as musical instruments played by the natural elements. Each sculpture is designed to appear as an electrical utility tower, but incorporated with Navajo geometries, which appear in weaving and painting designs. Two of the towers will functions as harps, their strings activated by the blowing wind and sand, producing a quiet singing drone. The other two are solar-powered oscillators, producing a faint and subtle electronic beating sound.
Andrea Polli, Venaya Yazzie, Esther Belin – “Binding Sky”
Two Locations: The Original Sweetmeat Inc., Hwy. 64, Waterflow, NM & Diné College Library, 1228 Yucca St., Shiprock, NM
Binding Sky is a 3-fold experience that involves public art, oral history and education in and around the Navajo Nation. This project aims to bring the complexities of the inter-relationships between air, people and technology on the Navajo Nation to greater public attention. Artists worked with a social media group on this project, which uses the medium of air to convey its stories, through audio, and new media (cell phone apps, websites, video, etc.) to bring audiences on a journey through Navajo country.