In 2003 the Harwood Museum of Art issued its first call for submissions to contemporary artists who were living and working in Taos.
Known as the home to some of the region's most important works - consequential Native American and Hispanic artists, the Taos Society of Artists and Taos Moderns - the Harwood's spotlight upon up-and-comers breathed new life into the art colony.
Flash forward to late last year when, for only the second instance in its history, the Harwood once again issued the same call.
"Contemporary Art/Taos 2020" had an anticipated July opening but by then the Harwood had been temporarily closed to the public. Regardless, the administration decided to proceed as planned. "The show was already in the works before the coronavirus decided how our year would look," said Juniper Manley, executive director of the Harwood. With some last-minute modifications to its website, she said, and an innovative approach to effecting the curation of this juried show, the exhibition opened according to schedule.
"We received 313 submissions," continued Manley. Two outside jurors - Douglas Dreishpoon and Dakota Hoska - joined with Nicole Dial-Kay, curator of exhibitions and collections, in narrowing the submission to 35. For those, Dial-Kay conducted virtual studio tours, studied curricula vitae and artist's biographies and spent hours on the phone to select the final 24 pieces which are now included in the show.
The gallery of works is available for viewing at harwoodart.org/cat-2020, and if one can imagine a bright spot in the middle of this pandemic, it may be that going virtual is allowing CA/T 2020 to reach a more geographically diverse audience. However, at press time there was a possibility the Harwood will open its doors once again in mid-September.
Of the governor's proposal to reopen museums at 25 percent capacity, Dial-Kay said, "We are moving as fast as we can to get everything in order to open, and working toward fulfilling all state and University of New Mexico requirements" in order to do so.
It will be great news for Taos because this is an exhibition so powerful it demands to be experienced in person.
Many of the artists will be familiar to you as you move through the galleries. Some may not. In its collectivity the exhibition is an exceptional array of media, perspectives, techniques and energies, the momentum of which grabs you the minute you step through the doors. The stunning installation by Lynnette Haozous - Taos Pueblo's rising star and the youngest artist represented in the exhibition - may just stop you in your tracks.
"Braiding Reconciliation" incorporates mural work with a hanging 25-foot knotted braid that harkens to the Pueblo Revolt runners. The "metaphorical notions of the umbilical cord, the DNA helix and the braid reflect a convergence of cultures and, more broadly, the complexity of identity ... in working toward reconciliation of our [Pueblo and Hispano] communities," according to the artist.
Haozous shares space alongside the photographic excellence of Sean Ratliff; the old school/high-brow/low-brow mixed-media techniques of Katy Kidd; and one of Sasha vom Dorp's iconic kinetic creations that illuminates the movement of sound waves through sunlight and water.
On the opposite wall Monique Belitz has re-created her interpretive landscape "Unexpected," in a work incorporating collage, ink and watercolor, the installation of which "seems to become a part of the landscape of the museum," said Dial-Kay.
And as you continue you'll pass the covetable fine jewelry of Maria Samosa and the sweetly ambiguous felted Finnish lambswool figurines of Nina Silfverberg. Then, allow yourself nine minutes at the monitor screen before you.
"Last Supper Stew" is Kathleen Brennan's moving chronicle of her terminally ill friend's final days after choosing to voluntarily stop eating and drinking. As she notes, "1 cup tears of sorrow; 1 cup tears of joy; 3/4 cup doggone; 2 tsp. salt of the earth; heat, add last laugh; stir; sprinkle liberally with crow, and serve" is the recipe for this final refection - and reflection.
The consideration of life in all its iterations is a theme that continues as you move through the remainder of the exhibition, where Jess Peri questions "the degree to which we allow ... controlling technology to skew the "Truth" of our everyday lives," to Solange Roberdeau's "organic with geometric mark-making" expressions of ink and gold leaf to Afton Love's "16 Faces and 16 Bowls" crafted from hand-dug micaceous clay as an offering to the Earth.
Anita Rodgriguez and Jan Sessler make encore appearances as the only two artists whose works were also featured in 2003. Though their art is visually disparate, both are underlain with the spiritual and meditative co-existence of past and present.
Likewise, Paul O'Connor juxtaposes the spiritual with the precise in his sculptures incorporating "elemental qualities of wood, metals and the absence of light," while Dean Pulver's "simple but rich forms ... reference man and nature." Brian Shields takes the viewer on a journey through the wild energy of Taos and Terrie Manget's exuberantly embellished quilt returns you joyfully to Earth.
Have some fun with Sarah Hart's screen printing, and the unexpected quilt of Tyvek and insulation offered up with the architectural precision for which J. Matthew Thomas is renowned. The spare potential energy of Gray Mercer's steel, wood and wax sculptures are a stark contrast to Sarah Stolar's fierce female depictions for which the University of New Mexico's Art Department chairperson is known.
The installations in the center of the exhibition hall are a breathtaking conclusion to the tour of the show. Patricia Michael's commissioned gown is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the return of Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo. Incorporating tribal symbols and a voluminous train representing the waterfall that brings lake water to the pueblo, it stuns the viewer with its beauty and grace.
Izumi Yokoyama presents a haunting sculpture based upon her mixed-media piece "Marionettes." The self-reflective work is a reverse mirror silhouette that took the artist three weeks to install and has over 3,600 strands.
Holding court over all, Nikesha Breeze's two oil on canvas paintings of anonymous African American slaves are rich in significance and context. The artist used the imagery of historical daguerreotypes and created hand-carved and cold-cast bronze framing to finish the somber yet uplifting representations of "ancestral memory and archival resurrection."
Visit harwoodmuseum.org for further information regarding public opening dates. "Contemporary Art/Taos 2020" is scheduled to be on view through April 2021.