Arts

NeoRio is where it's at

Huge art and community event in Questa area focuses on seeds this year

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NeoRio offers thought-provoking art installations right on the rim of the gorge of the Río Grande, along with a fall feast and music. “Now in its ninth year, this annual event is truly a unique experience for the Taos area,” an announcement states.

The outdoor contemporary art and community event – which celebrates the beauty of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument – will take place Saturday (Sept. 16), 4-9 p.m., at Montoso Campground at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area north of Questa. Admission is free and the event is open to all.

“NeoRio gives us an opportunity to see the natural world through the eyes of gifted, creative artists, and their visions take turns surprising, amazing, or entertaining me,” said monument Manager John Bailey in a prepared statement.

Each year, NeoRio features a different theme. This year’s theme, according to Land, Experience and Art of Place (LEAP) Director Claire Coté, is “glorious and fascinating seeds, a natural follow-up to last year’s focus on pollination. Seeds will inspire the art installations and activities throughout the afternoon and evening at NeoRio.

“Not only are seeds essential to our survival, provide our food and shape our world, they are also incredibly beautiful and mysterious sources of life. The miracle of seeds and the global importance of healthy seed diversity are driving forces of this year’s theme. It is also a local call to action; ‘get our own hands dirty,’ planting your own seeds! NeoRio explores and perpetuates the valuable cultural and agricultural practices of our local communities. The art installations and activities will highlight native plants and their roles in the ecosystems here, in Northern New Mexico and beyond.”

The event will host featured artists Kaitlin Bryson and Hollis Moore, as well as contributing artist-photographer Geraint Smith, plus a variety of interactive projects.

Bryson is originally from Reno, Nevada, and now hails from Albuquerque, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in art and ecology from the University of New Mexico. She works with natural materials to call attention to the agency of the nonhuman environment, according to NeoRio press materials. Her artwork is made to allow the materials involved to unfold and transform, living out their own dynamic processes.

About seeds and her work for NeoRio, she states, “A seed is a container of pure potential. When the time has come, it threshes off its hull and is born into a radicle – the plant embryo – and begins to simultaneously grow upward and downward, reaching towards the light while also rooting deeply into the soil. The story of the seed, with its radical breakthrough, has shaped my artwork and inspired me to cultivate similar moments within my own life. The piece presented at NeoRio 2017 is made to signify the moment of the radicle breaking free from dormancy, while also calling to the potentiality stored in material breakdown. As it falls apart, native seeds will be dropped in a swale to grow in the spring.”

Moore said she fell in love with the West during her undergraduate studies at Colorado College. Now, she also lives in Albuquerque and is a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of New Mexico in printmaking. She seeks “personal and collective journeys, exploring how the environment shapes her creativity and how her imagination lends a voice for the environment,” according to press materials. Her work is rooted in traditions of printmaking, natural materials, fiber arts and found objects. Her research and creative practice focuses on the Colorado River delta. Moore will bring her project, “Pulse Flow,” to NeoRio, including a 16-foot-tall papier-mâché canoe and a participatory papermaking and printmaking station.

“I will use the NeoRio site at Wild Rivers as an outdoor studio to work towards completing the canoe’s construction,” Moore said in a statement. “The Rio Grande’s National and Scenic River designation will prompt conversation about the management of our rivers in the arid Southwest. How can we preserve sections of free-flowing river, like the Rio Grande in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, whilst supporting the needs of water-users? NeoRio’s theme, ‘Seeds – Semillas,’ relates directly to these questions as many riparian plants sync their seed broadcast with [spring] floods.”

Moore adds, “In September of 2016, we visited Wild Rivers with the Land Arts of the American West Program, in which students work collectively to investigate place-based land issues in the Southwest bioregion.” To which Bryson states, “I am thrilled to be coming back to work in the gorge again and [make an] offering to the landscape.”

Work by Smith, the NeoRio contributing artist, will also be included in the event. His striking photo transfer series on the milkweed plant and pods will be installed on-site. Two of his works will be raffled and others will be for sale. All of the proceeds will benefit LEAP, thanks to Smith’s generosity.

During the afternoon, guests are invited to tour the art installations and projects and explore the family-oriented, hands-on “Seed Sensorium,” a collaboration with SEED Taos, as well as the “Questa Seed Exchange,” a collaboration with Questa Public Library.

The seed-inspired poetry and music salon, at 5 p.m., is a new element of this year’s event, featuring a curated series of poems by Deborah Pender Hutchison and Gabrielle Herbertson, with related musical interludes by Jonathan Hutchison.

Music from the High Desert Acoustic Duo (Justin Dean and Mark Dudrow) will usher in the evening festivities. Also available will be a locally sourced Northern New Mexico fall feast from the Questa Farmers Market growers, cooks and bakers. The feast is coordinated by Gaea McGahee, manager of Questa Farmers Market.

At dusk, portable solar power provided by PPC Solar will allow NeoRio’s featured artists to offer short, informative, illustrated talks, giving behind-the-scenes looks at the on-site artworks and brief visual tours of past works.

Organized by LEAP in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and others, this event also celebrates National Public Lands Day.

Coté said in a statement, “The vision for NeoRio is for people to experience the ‘confluence of art and environments’ through the lens of each year’s theme. The combination of art and wild places can be an exciting recipe; at best perception-changing and heart-opening and at least entertaining, novel, and fun. With NeoRio, it’s also about community, the place and artworks together with a delicious meal and beautiful, fall sunset.”

LEAP (a program of local nonprofit Localogy) brings innovative artists to the monument each autumn, “transforming the Montoso Campground with surprising, site-specific art amid the piñon and cliffs,” a press release states.

Those planning to attend are asked to carpool if possible. Parking is limited. This is a free event. Donations will be appreciated.

NeoRio is made possible by individual donations, local business and media sponsorships, as well as grant support. Questa Economic Development Fund, Chevron Questa Mine Community Fund and Taos County contributed grants. PPC Solar, Common Fire, North Star Toys, KRZA-FM 88.7, The Taos News, Cid’s Food Market and others contributed sponsorships.

Find out more about NeoRio at LeapSite.org or call Coté at (575) 224-9066.

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