By Mike Cook
Artist Nikesha Breeze’s exhibition “Four Sites of Return: Ritual, Remembrance, Reparation & Reclamation,” and artist Jackie Mitchell Edwards’ “Remembered Landscapes: The Sacred Space of Home,” will be featured during the grand re-opening of the University Art Museum at New Mexico State University, UAM Director Marisa Sage said.
The exhibitions open at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at UAM, Devasthali Hall, 1308 University Ave. (where University intersects with Solano Drive) “with a slew of events both on opening night, during opening weekend and over the course of the nearly two months the show is on view,” Sage said.
“Both installations showcase Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) New Mexico-based artists who partake in real and imagined searches for ancestral lands and black futures through the creation of projects that include acts of research, resilience, resistance collecting and ritual,” Sage said.
“Especially exciting to me is the project ‘Stages of Tectonic Blackness: Blackdom,’ a collaborative piece by Nikesha Breeze, Miles Tokunow and Lazarus Letcher,” Sage said. It will be performed on opening night “in and around their mixed-media installation and two-channel film which presents a scored durational dance and elongated mourning rituals for Black bodies that was originally performed on the ruins of Blackdom, New Mexico,” Sage said.
“Founded in 1902 (in Chaves County, about 18 miles south of Roswell) and abandoned by the mid-1920s, Blackdom was created as a ‘Black-utopia’ focused on Black freedom, land stewardship and education,” Sage said. “As part of this work, Breeze, a direct descendent of Blackdom, worked with UAM staff to research, find and interview other descendants of Blackdom who are scattered throughout the United States. The recorded oral histories will be integrated into the final interactive installation to be presented during Breeze’s UAM exhibition opening.
“Remembered Landscapes: The Sacred Space of Home, a multimedia installation” by Las Cruces artist Mitchell Edwards, “reveals an elongated poetic search for home and healing through material and spiritual relationships with nature and landscape,” Sage said. This exhibition will take place in UAM’s Mullennix Bridge Gallery and will remain on view until March 5.
“This new body of work by Mitchell Edwards was inspired by artist Breeze’s 2020 call for BIPOC artists to create metaphorical tools,” Sage said. “Hand Tools of Resilience,” an international juried exhibition, “invited artists to examine the conscious and unconscious tools that BIPOC have created to survive, thrive and build within oppressive and abusive systems. Breeze’s call sparked a deeper, more focused research on the power of ritual objects within Mitchell Edwards’s greater practice and the results are witnessed in this powerful installation. Mitchell Edwards’s own journey as a Black woman in the African Diaspora (a term that refers to the descendants of Africans shipped to the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade) focuses on the primacy of the study of nature and other spiritual traditions.”
Like Breeze, Mitchell Edwards “uses ritual and remembrance when creating talismanic healing objects that protect and guide one’s way back to their ancestral home,” Sage said. “This immersive installation includes abstract paintings, altars, collage, assemblage, talismans and amulets. Crystals and minerals, bones, shells, seeds and roots from desert trees form an archive and landscape of materials used in rituals and presented to viewers by Mitchell Edwards as sacred objects that create and hold her ancestral home. Mitchell Edwards’s ritual objects connect her to an ancient story defined by strength, beauty, resilience and spiritual transcendence passed down through generations across the African Diaspora,” Sage said.
The themes of resilience, vulnerability, community and intimacy will be further explored through UAM’s exhibition “Four Sites of Return: Ritual, Remembrance, Reparation & Reclamation” occurring in the Contemporary Gallery and Bunny Conlon Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery, Sage said.
“In further support of the exhibitions, a comprehensive series of programming will be available to the public, including performances, panels and three educational OutsmART programs led by associated artists and collaborators,” Sage said.
“The Colored Museum,” by George C. Wolfe, will be performed by The Be Group at 7 p.m. Fridays Feb. 4 and 11 at UAM. There is no charge to attend. The play opened in 1986 in New Jersey and was later performed in New York City and in London. Its Las Cruces production will be directed by Tiffany and Christopher Brooks, and will include “11 satirical ‘exhibits’ of African-American culture, from the depths of the Celebrity Slave Ship to the spinning heights of Harlem.”
Visit uam.nmsu.edu/nikeshabreeze, uam.nmsu.edu/rememberedlandscapes/ and