Writer: Dana Beasley, 575-646-7565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Through its new fall exhibitions, the New Mexico State University Art Gallery has become a beacon of borderland discussion and a quirky locale for the exchange of art.
Poised to communicate provocative geopolitics alongside playful ingenuity, the presentations include “Between Here and There,” a two-person exhibition exploring the effects of borders on society, and “Your General Store,” an interactive trade-based installation where the public is invited to trade their art for works crafted by artists from all over the country.
For “Between Here and There,” nationally renowned artists Paul Turounet and Terri Warpinski confront the complexities of borders on communities, as well as their roles as junctions that represent the present and future for many migrants in transition.
“Both of these artists are really interested in the migrant experience,” said Marisa Sage, director of the gallery, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. “What we are interested in, here at the University Art Gallery, are the questions that these artists bring up. Here in Las Cruces, we’re only 45 minutes or less to the Mexico-U.S. border — what do these images, these installations, these works mean to us? That conversation is so important to this region.”
In his “Estamos Buscando A” installation, Turounet creates a border wall, constructed in the gallery space from actual pieces of the border salvaged at Border State Park between San Diego, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico.
The wall is comprised of commemorative aluminum portraits of migrants who have attempted the journey of leaving Mexico to enter the United States. Turounet’s aluminum depictions are modeled after retablos, which are religious or iconographical paintings on tin.
“For me,” Turounet said, “it was important because I wanted to reveal a sense of humanity and pay homage to the people that were attempting to cross — to show that the migrants and people attempting to cross are no different than anyone else in terms of trying to find a place for themselves physically, but also I would say, emotionally and psychologically.”
The project began in 2001, when Turounet was in Mexico as a Fulbright scholar; there, he photographed individuals attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Once an image was printed on a piece of steel, Turounet returned to the location the photo was taken and installed the steel photograph on the border wall.
Warpinski, an Oregon-based artist, explores the border not only at the threshold of the United States and Mexico, but also the border in occupied Palestinian territories. Through photographs, the artist’s work investigates the abuse of power and consequences when national desires for security dominate social and geopolitical concerns.
Later this month, the UAG will host a discussion panel, “Borderlands as Negotiated through the Arts.” For this event, a scholarly panel will consider the topic of visual and performance arts as creative catalysts that spark critical conversations among audiences about the complex global issues of border governance.
Also promoting an exchange and intersection of ideas is Jason Middlebrook’s “Your General Store.” This installation, located in the parking lot west of the University Art Gallery, features a reconditioned shipping container-turned general store, which arrived to the NMSU campus from its debut location at SITE Santa Fe.
Middlebrook has altered the container to create a replica of a nineteenth-century general store. The store relies on the exchange of goods, rather than the use of cash or credit, and features handmade and salvaged objects available through barter.
“The goal of the trade-based installation is to travel around the country, gathering and dispersing handmade objects from person to person,” Sage said. “There are paintings, sculptures, bird houses, canes, books, all different artisans’ wares to trade within the general store — no credit cards accepted, no money is to be exchanged — it is all exchange of one artist’s work for another artist’s work.”
Inside the container, “it’s all recycled wood,” Middlebrook said. “The container has had 25,000 sea hours — it’s been around the world, so there’s this whole, kind of, global, mobile thing happening with this.”
The store is filled with inventory and art by hundreds of artists from across the world who have exchanged their artwork for pieces created specifically for “Your General Store.”
“It’s this whole idea that you take the monetary exchange out of the relationship,” Middlebrook said. “The motto is ‘browse, create, barter.’ You either recycle something or create something, and it makes you have a different relationship toward how you might obtain something.”
This project explores the value of art and the impact art has on society, Sage explained.
“Las Cruces and the surrounding areas are filled with a plethora of amazing, talented artists,” Sage said. “This is how we get these communities to start dialoguing.”
“Between Here and There” will run through Oct. 3. “Your General Store” will run through Nov. 7.
The University Art Gallery at NMSU is located in D.W. Williams Hall, at the intersection of University and Solano Avenues. The UAG is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Designated gallery parking is available, and general parking on the NMSU campus is free on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
For more information or to arrange a group visit, visit the gallery website at uag.nmsu.edu, or contact UAG administrator Jasmine Woodul directly at 575-646-2545 or email@example.com.