As we move into the middle of the 21st century, how will we reconcile the past and forge a new future? Each of the artists in “Technologies of the Spirit” weaves elements of 20th century art and culture into contemporary artworks that invite the viewer to contemplate their place in the landscape and their role in society. At the heart of each work is a rethinking of old ways of making one’s way through the world.
In the 21st century, we think of technology as machines, software, and algorithms, but on its most fundamental level, technology is the application of human knowledge. The idea of technology is as applicable to what we eat and how we prepare it as it is to how we work the land, build our homes, and go about our work. On a personal level, technology is how we use our knowledge of the world around us—people, places, and things—to make sense of our place in that world. In this sense, resilience, prayer, ritual, coping, self-care, etc can be considered technologies of the spirit. Each of the artists in this exhibition are using their knowledge and understanding of the world to create artwork that speaks to one’s place in it. Featured artists include Paola de la Calle, Karsten Creightney, Josh T. Franco, Moira Garcia, Jackie Mitchell Edwards, Laurie O’Brien, Eric-Paul Riege (Diné/Navajo) and Marcus Zúñiga.
Karsten Creightney‘s large collage paintings offer us two views: The pastoral landscape of a well-groomed golf course contrasts with a barrage of “No Loitering” signs. Who is welcomed into a space and who is told to leave? In these works, Creightney uses the technology of collage to show us two experiences of life in New Mexico.
New Mexican-Chicana artist Moira Garcia focuses on the histories of the Nahuatl-named settlements of Analco of Santa Fe and Atlixco of Atrisco, Albuquerque. How does Mesoamerican knowledge inform how we move through New Mexico? Large-scale painted works and installation illustrate the continued relationship and contribution of Indigenous Mexican culture and identity to New Mexico. Through the use of Mesoamerican visual language and materials, these works pay homage to Indigenous painted histories and cartographies, and re-imagine the depictions and narratives of the first generations of Nahua settlers of Yancuic Mexico (New Mexico) in the early seventeenth century.
Artists use their knowledge of a place to shape and inform other people’s understanding of it. Others often use artists and their legacy to construct a sense of place or to market a place to others. This is a type of social technology. In conversation with the O’Keeffe Museum, Josh T. Franco reflects critically on the legacy of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and invites the viewer to consider the artist’s influence on the cultural identity of New Mexico. Stone Resting on Georgia O’Keeffe (Their sky fell to the sound of laughter) cleaves the thoughtfulness of the artist’s longtime inhabitation of the area from the thoughtless consumption of her work and persona by contemporary audiences and cultural promoters.
How does one’s knowledge of a place inform how they relate to it on a spiritual level? How does a diasporic person forge a sense of belonging? Through abstract painting, collages, ritual objects, and written texts, Jackie Mitchell Edwards’ installation, Remembered Landscapes: The Sacred Space of Home, creates a contemplative space in which the viewer is invited to consider the dispossession and displacement of the African Diaspora, who is “told that we are from elsewhere and nowhere, even though we have deeper roots in America than most European immigrants.”
How does one locate themselves in space and time? How does the sun’s place in the sky inform our sense of time? Chuparosa by Marcus Zúñiga is an installation that utilizes video projection and light to analyze the intersection of place, time, and history. Invoking Mesoamerican cosmology, Zúñiga’s work raises questions about how we belong in an environment inclusive of both the land and the cosmos.
The work of Colombian-American interdisciplinary artist Paola de la Calle examines home, borders, identity, and nostalgia. A series of collages will reflect on immigration to New Mexico from Mexico and South America. “De la Calle tackles assumptions about migration and immigrants by combining quotidian imagery and Spanglish poetry to present ideas about cultural elasticity.”
Laurie O’Brien “investigates our human exchange with technology through collage animation.” She writes, “The promise of technology to deliver digital connection and a better world also leaves a path of progressive real and spiritual depletion and destruction. In my film, I express these ideas with dislocated time, space and body parts. I explore technical questions that involve the spirit and the past––instead of asking what have we gained from accelerated technical progress, I ask, what have we lost?”
The idea of technology put forth in this exhibition is explored using photographs from the Albuquerque Museum Photography Archives that offer examples of different ways people of New Mexico apply human knowledge. From images of the harvest in Chamita, New Mexico to strategies for managing water to keeping time and caring for others, the photographs invite viewers to reflect on past technologies and consider how they inform the cultural fabric of the state.
Art Meets History at 516 ARTS spans two exhibitions: Many Worlds Are Born (February 19 – May 14, 2022) and Technologies of the Spirit (June 11 – September 3, 2022). Both are curated by Ric Kasini Kadour and Alicia Inez Guzmán, PhD, and are accompanied by a series of public conversations and activities that bring together historic content and contemporary art practices. The project looks at how the divergent histories of race, conflict, and colonialism in New Mexico inform how we imagine our futures. This project is developed in partnership with the national Art Meets History initiative (a program of Kasini House), Kolaj Institute, and the Albuquerque Museum Photography Archives.
Laurie O’Brien at 516 Arts - Passatiempo, The Santa Fe New Mexican