Throughout my creative work, I have a question that I find myself returning to over and over again: “how does place make a person human?” Or, phrased differently: To what extent does place define us, our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors? To what extent do these places write themselves into us? When I say, “place,” I don’t just mean a location you can point to on a map. To me, a place is more akin to how we think about an ecosystem: as relationships between living or non-living components and intangible forces, such as wind, rain, histories, memories, and values. From writing to comics to collaborations with the community, I practice this deep attention to our shared place and humanity.
Cyanograms: Shadows Cast on Ephemeral Futures
Cyanograms: Shadows Cast on Ephemeral Futures is a photographic installation that uses large-scale linen prints to make visible students’ climate grief in a changing world. Drawn from interviews with UNM students about the climate crisis, students’ words were transformed into poems detailing their fears and hopes for the future. Paired with images of our local natural and built environments and silhouettes of students, these poems were printed on fabric and hung in the windows of the Honors College. They remained on display during the National Poetry Month, Earth Day, and the UNM sustainability expo.
During the sustainability expo, our team talked with students about their climate fears. Using turmeric ink, students wrote down what they were afraid of losing on small slips of scrap paper. They then tied the scraps to a “solastalgia tree.” Solastalgia is a neologism describing the distress produced by the contemporary effects of climate change in one’s home environment. As turmeric is light sensitive and fades over time, these words, too, faded, creating a visual representation of loss.
Local poet Sara Daniele Rivera and I collaborated on “Afterbeams,” a sculptural text installation that explores local ecology and the landscape of memory at the Bosque Redondo Memorial (summer 2021). Students from the NACA-Inspired Schools Network and community members from the Indigenous Nations Library Program wrote poems in response to prompts based on the memorial’s contemplation circle associated with Dook’o’oosliid (the San Francisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff, AZ), the direction west, and the color yellow. Their words were painted onto linen using natural earth pigments and layered with light-sensitive turmeric ink that fades over time to reflect how memory and resilience are tied to place. These linens were hung on steel frames that visually reference the San Francisco Peaks. The organic shape of the frames and cut cloth called to mind the invisible forces that continually shape the mountains, such as wind and water on the mountains’ strata. A parallel can be drawn between these forces and the continual shaping of history and collective memory on communities and individuals.
Using the vibrant blue hue of the cyanotype process as a means to link it to haiku poetry about the monsoons in New Mexico, a season of relief and renewal, photographer Megan Jacobs and I sought to connect the uncertainty of the pandemic lockdown and a desire for connection to essential rhythms and routines. We created a custom handmade font and then cut out the individual letters of each poem and lay them on the fabric, which was soaked in the cyanotype chemistry. The sun exposed the surrounding fabric, turning it a brilliant Prussian blue and the areas in which the light was blocked (such as the sections for the text and artwork) remained white. The artwork included silhouettes and digital negatives as well as creating patterns from natural materials using the photogram process that enhance the poem but do not illustrate the writing. These cyanograms were installed at 106 Gold Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM, as part of 516 Arts “Windows on the future” exhibit in summer 2020.
Duke City Mural
“American Lumber” and “Navajo Addition”
These two light post banners were hung along Mountain Road in Albuquerque, NM as part of the History of the Neighborhood through the Eyes of Contemporary Artists public art project. The original art was on display at Julianna Kirwin Studio and the banners on Mountain Road at 10th and 12th Streets. These banners reflect the history of the Sawmill district.
To Spread Happiness
In 2017, I worked on a team to paint this mural of hummingbirds at the Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless. We worked under lead artist Nani Chacon to realize a collaborative vision, incorporating UNM student Nathaniel Nez’s original design, ArtStreet participants, and UNM students hard work. The hummingbirds are meant to symbolize determination, flexibility, and adaptability as they flutter across a turquoise sky above the Sandia skyline outlined in rainbow stripes. ArtStreet is a nonprofit organization and art collective at AHCH. It is an open studio that anyone, regardless of housing status, can visit every Thursday and Friday as well as every third Saturday of the month. The studio is an open, safe space where connections and communities are built through art. 1217 1st Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102