Three exhibits add up to look at time

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Time. It’s a constant in life. And it’s also the subject that three collaborative projects are based on in 516 ARTS’ newest exhibition, “Time Pieces.”

Suzanne Sbarge, the executive director of 516 ARTS, says the idea started with the poet Miriam Sagan’s work and her interest in organizing a collaboration with visual artists around the subject of time and place. “I have always been a huge fan of her work and her approach to teaching and collaboration. I was inspired by her focus on how the particular moment and location we are each born into affect our lives,” she explains.

The exhibit is split into three collaborative exhibits:

♦ “Wendover Landing” is an interdisciplinary art piece merging Sagan’s poetry and sculpture by Alisa Dworsky and Christy Hengst.

♦ “Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape” by Suzi Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes consists of lush, large-scale photographs printed directly on aluminum and a twin-screen video production.

♦ “Friends of the Orphan Signs,” organized by artist/curator Ellen Babcock, showcases historic Albuquerque road signs alongside artwork created in response to them, focusing on a dialogue between historic content and contemporary art practices.

“We came up with the idea of exhibiting multiple, concurrent projects that complement one another, and we found the Common Language series and the Friends of the Orphan Signs project all to have commonalities around this subject,” Sbarge explains. “Each is very different, but all three are collaborations among artists examining time and place in poetic ways.”

Sbarge says she’s interested in looking at how our particular place and time affect our lives and our community’s identity.

“I love how the ‘Friends of the Orphan Signs’ portion of the exhibition looks very specifically at the streets of Albuquerque, merging history and contemporary art,” she says. “Each part of the exhibition reflects on different aspects of time and place – with ‘Wendover Landing’ in a kind of abstract space, ‘Common Language’ focusing on the land, and ‘Friends of the Orphan Signs’ looking at the urban environment of our city.”

For Sagan, collaborating with Dworsky and Hengst was a great experience. She says she was inspired to work on this project after taking a trip to an abandoned Air Force base in Utah.

“I wrote the poems and gave them to each artist,” she explains. “I know that Christy was inspired to use my actual handwriting in the piece. I know that she also took a trip to Utah to see where the inspiration for the poems came from.”

Babcock says the second floor at 516 ARTS is devoted to the “Friends of the Orphan Signs.” The organization looks for signs that have been abandoned and decides how to use them for public art.

“We try to work with groups of people and look for imagery that makes a statement,” she says. “We’ve worked with students from Highland High School on some projects and gave them the tools to make it all happen.”

Babcock says she started the organization because she was intrigued by Route 66 and its history.

“This is a town where most people drive and road signs have a lot of power,” she explains. “I felt like this is an opportunity to give these signs a voice again. They’ve been abandoned and are broken. But there’s a history that needs to be told.”

Sbarge thinks the public will be intrigued by the layering of approaches in this three-part exhibition.

“Different people will be drawn to different aspects of it,” she says. “I hope the work will inspire reflection and dialogue.”

Sbarge says there are scheduled exhibition programs that will include a poetry and music event with Sagan, JB Bryan and John Brandi on June 16.

A panel discussion about “100 Years of Albuquerque Signs” with a mix of architectural and cultural historians will take place on June 30. For more information on all of the programming associated with the exhibit, visit

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