Race and place – it’s a subject that is broad and complex.
There is no right answer, yet being open to understanding helps.
This is impetus behind the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum’s latest exhibit, “Because It’s Time: Unraveling Race and Place in NM.” The exhibit runs through Feb. 28.
“It’s looking at this interesting moment that we’re in,” says Jadira Gurule, exhibit curator. “Race on the national scale is important.”
Gurule and the curatorial team focused the exhibition on race and place, yet put attention on the intersectional reality of who we are and how we experience the world.
She says that as an idea and term, “intersectionality” helps us to account for the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability, nationality, religion, citizenship status – all have a part in the ways we are able to thrive in our humanity.
“Intersectionality is a tool for understanding the many factors that make up who we are and how we experience discrimination and/or privilege,” she says in the exhibit introduction. “It is a useful idea for unpacking the complexity of the artworks in this exhibition.”
Gurule says the exhibit is a space for art, identity and social justice to align. The creative and visionary labor that artists perform sustains social change and often teems with a revolutionary power.
Whether the artwork is explicitly political or not, its ability to rouse emotion, to humanize disparate experiences, to call attention to the need for action, and to foster self-growth positions artistic expression as an important part of a collective move toward thriving local and global communities, she says.
The artwork in the exhibit is more than hot topics and political debates.
“Each is deeply personal, and they grapple with issues that relate directly to mental and physical well-being – issues that, for some, are a matter of life and death,” she says. “These issues can come with intense feelings, disagreements, and varying levels of discomfort.”
The NHCC Art Museum curatorial team selected 13 visual artists to create new work about race and place in NM.
Each artist was then asked to invite an artist to participate.
The only qualifying factor was that every artist must have spent some time in New Mexico. The newly created works by these 26 artists range in inspiration, subject-matter, approach and mediums, but all offer insight into the impact of race and identity in our daily lives.
Additionally, about 20 existing artworks from the NHCC Art Museum’s permanent collection are included in the exhibit. Unlike those created by the 26 invited artists, the works from the permanent collection are not necessarily about New Mexico or by artists who have any experience in the state. Rather, they are national and international in scope, with hopes of strengthening the notion that what happens locally is relevant globally and vice versa, Gurule says.
Gurule says there are so many artists in NM that are doing amazing work.
“Part of the questions that were going on in our head is whether or not you select an artist because they are dealing with race,” she says. “It’s really important to have different points of view. It was difficult to narrow it down to 13 artists. And it was really cool to have artists inviting people. These are conversations that I have always wanted to have, because race is always present and we need to talk about it and broaden the conversation.”