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Chico Macmurtrie, "Border Crosser" (2021), inflatable robotic sculptures, 6 x 4 x 40 feet each, featured in Border Crossers, September 16–December 10, 2021 (© Chico Macmurtri, courtesy the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, the University of Texas, El Paso)

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Last June, a group of artists, curators, educators, and art administrators from the southwestern United States and northern Mexico got together on a conference video call. All were reckoning with the impacts of the turbulent events of 2020 on their communities, where economic and social inequalities, border and health crises hit especially hard. Looking for ways to reach local and wider audiences as the pandemic continued, they decided to join forces. 

“Our region is a center of vital contemporary art activity,” Suzanne Sbarge, executive director of 516 ARTS in Albuquerque, said in a press release. “The connectedness our group forged during the pandemic inspired us to think both short- and long-term about how together we can address the social and geographic isolation of our region located far from major cultural centers.”

The resulting project, Desierto Mountain Time, spans from September 2021 to May 2022 and brings together 13 organizations from five states and two countries. The ongoing series of contemporary art exhibitions and programs will be led by 516 ARTS and its partners, which include the Fund for Ethical Practices of Transborder Art (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas), the Harwood Museum of Art (Taos, New Mexico), RedLine Contemporary Art Center (Denver, Colorado), and others. A full list of participating organizations is available here.

Debbie Long, “Naima” (2012-2015), trailer, light, glass, 9 x 8 x 7.5 feet, featured in Debbie Long: Light Ships, March 19, 2022–October 23, 2022 (photo by Wendy Shuey, courtesy the artist, Harwood Museum of Art)

Highlights will include the exhibition Bordær: Narratives and Cartographies of Migration at the Museo de Arte Ciudad Juárez, which will display a collective art project based on embroidery techniques that were developed by a group of migrant asylum seekers sheltered in Ciudad Juárez as a result of the US’s current “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Another show — Relational Tectonics and Four Sites of Return: Ritual, Remembrance, Reparation and Reclamation at the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Art Museum — will feature works by Nikesha Breeze inspired by Blackdom, New Mexico’s first all-Black community. Chico Macmurtrie: Border Crossers at the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso is a large-scale performance and participatory event involving lightweight robotic sculptures that broach the border wall between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. And for those who cannot attend Desierto Mountain Time in person, the Santa Fe Art Institute has launched the Tilt Podcast: Shifting Perspectives on Complex Issues, which explores the diverse communities, creators, and cultures of New Mexico in monthly episodes.

“Nothing forces you to reconsider your own region as suddenly being told that all travel is dangerous, that state lines and international borders can only be crossed when absolutely necessary,” said León De la Rosa-Carrillo, Desierto Mountain Time organizer, artist, and professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. This new project aims to reveal and connect creative concerns from the region to the rest of the world. 

Nómada Laboratorio Urbano, “El Regreso Responsible” (2020), urban intervention, featured in The Fund for Ethical Practices of Transborder Art, October 2– December 10, 2021 (image courtesy the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, the University of Texas, El Paso)
Nikesha Breeze, “The Arc of Return” (2021), Baltic birch, hand-etched copper plates, copper mesh, 96 x 48 x 18 inches, featured in Four Sites of Return, January 21–March 6, 2022 (photo by Byron Flesher, form & concept, courtesy NMSU Art Museum)
Rochelle Johnson, “Repose” from the Blue World series (2021), oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches, featured in RedLine Resident Artists Exhibition, November 12, 2021– January 23, 2022 (image courtesy RedLine Contemporary Art Center)
Timo Fahler, “cast II” (2020), Cimarron River landscape OK, rebar steel, plaster, featured in rafa esparza and Timo Fahler: were-:Nenetech Forms, October 8, 2021–February, 2022 (image courtesy the artist, MOCA Tucson)

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Lauren Moya Ford

Lauren Moya Ford is a writer and artist. Her writing has appeared in Apollo, Artsy, Atlas Obscura, Flash Art, Frieze, Glasstire, Mousse Magazine, and other publications.

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