Calabacillas Arroyo Project featured in recent book and news
This blog is rooted in fields of art and science that I work in. In addition to paintings and installation art pieces, I’ve occasionally put science aside for years to contribute as a public sculptor, and many of my works can be found in Albuquerque. I’m also opinionated about art and everything else, which is another reason to maintain a blog, especially now that all other physical social forums are rapidly becoming banned.
The featured image captures some renewed media interest in a public arts sculpture project which I directed and directly participated in. The Calabacillas Arroyo Project from the late 1990s is an artwork I think the whole city can be proud of, especially because a unique blend of talented and engaged students, teachers, historians, and many other artists (both paid and volunteers), along with the usual complement of engineers, administrators, public workers, fabricators and construction companies contributed. There were in fact over 300 individual contributors.
Moreover the massive artwork, set in a beautiful stretch of the Rio Grande Bosque, strove to honor our history and prehistory, including the everyday, the “important”, and the fantastic. I’m proud to have designed this project and to have recruited academics and teachers from every corner of Albuquerque to join in the historical research for the effort. Nor did we shy away from controversies or taboo subjects.
The development of the atom bomb for example is an important and controversial subject that is foundational to the current fabric of this state. We dived deeply into its history and related symbolism.
Those directions of the project appeared to be of interest in the recent book published about “Secret Albuquerque”, although I wish the author might have spared a few words for the deep and broad foundational treatment of Native American art and history that the project attempted to capture.
But in addition to that, we ensured coverage of other less known topics including New Mexico’s “Crypto Jews” and perhaps one of the most overlooked yet influential historical figures of all, Esteban. This African slave, linguist, explorer and strategist figures critically at the nexus of the Spanish and Native encounters in the New Word in general and New Mexico in particular. To the best of my knowledge, Esteban the Slave was never before featured in any New Mexico public artwork. I certainly could be wrong but it seems far easier to find statues of almost any other person or topic imaginable. Even in our project, he must share room with a dizzying and rich array of characters and events which make our state the most unique of all in this great country.
While many appear very interested to separate us from each other, this project was a testament to the differences that continue to bring us together. It may receive a bit of graffiti at times but the sponsors/leaders of the overall construction including John Kelly and Larry Blair, agreed with me wholeheartedly that much like the rest of our beautiful canyons and mesas, this mini-canyon also will decay over time, and all of its fine artworks will ultimately end up as sand in the Rio Grande.
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