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A level of intimacy: Artist spent two weeks in New Mexico making field drawings

Alexis Rockman is a man in demand.

The New York-based artist recently gave a talk at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Soon, he will be in Santa Fe to present a talk about his work in “Future Shock,” currently on display at SITE Santa Fe.

Not to mention that he will also be speaking about his book, “Alexis Rockman: New Mexico Field Drawings.”

He is still planning what he’s going to speak about for the talk.

“The book is a record of the project,” he says during an interview while walking home in New York City. “This is the third book of its type.”

While creating his book, Rockman became a New Mexican for nearly two weeks.

He’d drive into the Jemez Mountains and collect Ziplock bags full of items. He traveled with scientists and historians.

“It was all so interesting,” he says of his time in New Mexico. “I would see a cholla cactus growing out of a pile of trash. Then there was the green clay. There were so many things to draw.”

One thing Rockman didn’t anticipate was exceeding his goal of 75 drawings.

“I did 76 in the book,” he says. “I always had 75 as the target number. Then I found out about the Cochineal insect. I had never heard of it and I started to look for it, and it became a drawing.”

Rockman has been doing field drawings since 1994.

He is known for his monumentally scaled futuristic painted landscapes that address global existential threats, such as climate change, mass extinction and ecological imbalances.

He has two paintings – “Battle Royale” and “Bronx Zoo” – plus the group of 73 newly commissioned drawings on exhibit as part of the SITE Santa Fe exhibit.

“About 25 years ago, I started thinking about the history of going into the field as an artist or scientist,” he says. “I wondered how to make a project with the level of intimacy with the material given. I’ve done projects like this in Madagascar, La Brea Tarpits and New Mexico. It’s a way of getting to know New Mexico.”

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