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NMSU Art Museum’s newest exhibit to feature decades of a border artist’s powerful work

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Art lovers in the region have an opportunity to experience 40 years of boundary-breaking artwork by conceptual multimedia artist Celia Álvarez Muñoz. More than 35 of her works will be on display at the University Art Museum at New Mexico State University. 

“Celia Álvarez Muñoz: Breaking the Binding” will open with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 with the artist at the UAM in Devasthali Hall, 1308 E. University Ave. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public. The show, which includes large-scale immersive installations, photographic series and book projects, will run through March 2.

Muñoz exhibition was curated by Kate Green, chief curator, as well as the Nancy E. Meinig curator of modern and contemporary art at Philbrook Museum of Art and Isabel Casso, associate curator from the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

“The title points to a literal break in the artist’s practice,” Green and Casso wrote, “but it also captures the way Muñoz has for decades continuously ruptured and troubled categorical boundaries, breaking the bindings that separate the individual and the collective.”

An El Paso native born in 1937, Muñoz was raised by her mother, aunt and grandmother after her father was deployed during World War II. Her upbringing and life in the borderland in the aftermath of the Great Depression have influenced many of her artworks.

The exhibition highlights the artist’s playful, witty style, often characterized by her use of bilingual puns and mistranslations in both text and image.

“Enlightenment,” a seminal series she created during her time in graduate school, explores the personal memories of her life on the border.

“I always carry the cultural, geographical and political matrix of the borderland with me,” Muñoz said. “And it surfaces in my work, as I see it.”

Before enrolling in graduate school at the University of North Texas in 1977, Muñoz took commercial art classes at the University of Texas at El Paso and taught art to children for many years. Since then, Muñoz has gone on to make many pieces that have influenced the world of contemporary Latinx and conceptual art. She explained what it’s like to view some of her earliest works now.

“There are many aspects to explore within those peripheries,” Muñoz said. “I just continue to allow more angles or views to surface and explore. The work has at times grown in size, utilizing and exploring new technologies. Sometimes it expands, other times it contracts. I just listen very carefully to what it wants to become.”

A full-color book featuring installation photos and unpublished archival materials published by Radius Books, a non-profit based in Santa Fe, will accompany the exhibit and will be available at the opening event and during the exhibition’s run.

The UAM will host a series of in-person bookmaking workshops Nov. 4, Nov. 18, and Dec. 2 in Devasthali Hall room 106. The workshops will be open to anyone interested and participants can choose to exhibit their books in the Mullenix Bridge Gallery alongside artwork by Muñoz.

For more information on the exhibition and all related events, visit