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Curators on the Road: Santa Fe

Posted on Monday, July 25, 2016

Written by Curator Laura Burkhalter

Santa Fe has always been on my travel wish list, and it fully lived up to my expectations. SITE Sante Fe, a contemporary art space, holds a highly respected biennial exhibition, and the opening of this version was the primary reason for this trip. This year’s show, titled “much wider than a line” explores the relationships and challenges that arise when cultures meet over the space of a border, and was particularly concerned with indigenous voices. An international team of curators brought together 35 artists from 16 countries across the Americas to create a provocative and timely show.

Juana Valdes, Sienna Colored China Rags, 2012

Juana Valdes

I was particularly taken with Juana Valdes’ poignantly delicate ceramic work, Sienna Colored China Rags, which combines exquisite craft with a comment on domestic work as often the only work venue for immigrants of color.

Jeffrey Gibson, Like a Hammer, 2016

Jeffrey Gibson

Another stand out was Jeffrey Gibson, whose multi-media installation Like a Hammer combined dance, traditional Native costume craft, and wry exploration of the role commercial slogans can play in our identities.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Nude Series XII, 1917

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe, Portrait No. III, 1917

Georgia O'Keeffe

Outside of SITE, Santa Fe is a city filled with art, from 400-year old churches to cutting edge contemporary. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was next on my list of visits, and the early works by this American icon absolutely blew me away. These century old watercolors were as fresh and exciting as a lot art being made today.

Jonathan Loretto, Darth Rex and Apprentice Neon, 2016

Jonathan Loretto

Another highlight for me was the abundance of contemporary art made by Native American artists on view at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Across Canada and the U.S, a new generation of artists are combining all sorts of contemporary art practices with their inherited traditions, and making some of the best contemporary art around. I’ve got high hopes to bring some of their work to the Art Center’s audience in the near future.

Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf

My final stop was Meow Wolf, an “arts production company that creates immersive, multi-media experiences.” Created and staffed by dozens of young artists, and hosting a nonprofit art making studio, Meow Wolf is unexplainable, wild, and an absolute blast. Housed in an old bowling alley, the permanent display is called “House of Eternal Return.” One enters into a faux Victorian house, staged with clues about a mysterious family. There’s no map or directions, but crawling into the fireplace or opening the refrigerator do send one into a spaceship filled with paradise-themed rooms, or a surreal marketplace of mutated bugs and giant robotic hands, or a two-story, carpeted forest with rope bridges, bat caves, and giant crows. Nothing is as it seems, and it’s like spending a couple of hours in a blender of Wonderland, a Dali painting, and a cheesy Sci-Fi flick. Highly recommended, as is all of Santa Fe.

Don’t even get me started on the food…

entirely unexpected