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The process of remembering

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Capturing the land, the people and the fight of Grant County is the basis of an exhibition by Brazilian artist JoÃo Galera.

A piece by artist Joao Galera featured in the virtual exhibition “Aprils, Summers, Fires and Good-Nights.”

Galera was invited to serve a one-year artist’s residency in Silver City. The residency – which began in June 2019 – is sponsored by the Town of Silver City and Western New Mexico University. The exhibition was set to open in May at the WNMU McCray Gallery of Contemporary Art. A portion of the show was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(The one-year residency) gave him a chance to connect with many different communities within our town,” said Faye McCalmont, director of cultural affairs at WNMU. “He worked with the schools, he worked with theater groups and writing groups, the chamber of commerce. He just kind of involved everyone and he traveled around the countryside around Silver City and created his impressions with his watercolors.”

Finding inspiration

Galera incorporated two written works into his exhibition.

“I think this artist residency for one year was really good for me to stop and work, study and also to research, that is really important for an art project,” he explains in a lecture on the exhibition. “During this research I used mainly two books, two authors, it’s T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ and Euclides da Cunha’s ‘Os Sertoes.’

“I chose ‘The Waste Land’ because I was already studying about that, and I think nowadays it’s a really important poem to read. So it was the basis for my work and it was very important to make the concept.”

Galera also speaks of his use of Brazilian writer Euclides da Cunha’s work “Os Sertoes” in the lecture that can be found at

“He wrote about a place in Brazil that’s very similar with here, Silver City,” Galera said. “It’s very dry, it’s like desert. He wrote about this kind of community revolution that they made in this place so it was very important for me to read this when I was here. Euclides da Cunha I used mainly for the structure of this work so I divided like him in three parts this project, the land, the people and the fight.”

The point of the residency was to bring Galera to Silver City to get an outsiders view of the community.

The virtual exhibition “Aprils, Summers, Fires and Good-Nights” features works by Brazilian artist Joao Galera.

“The history of mining is in there, the water issues and the university and how all these communities have come together to make this beautiful town,” McCalmont said of the exhibition. “It is an outsider’s view. He just wandered the whole county and put his impressions in his pieces that he has created.”

As Galera wandered Grant County, he would collect objects including a discarded baseball, fresh or wilted flowers and leaves, a rusted nail and more along the way. A description of the objects, along with the drawings, can be found in the virtual exhibition online.

“The land, it’s interesting because I would like to show my point of view of Silver City, so I started making these small drawings with watercolor and ink of objects that I found around here,” he states in the lecture. “In the beginning, we arrived here in June (2019), in the summer, so I started to do some of these drawings en plein air… I just brought these objects to my place and I just drew it at home. I started to collect these objects all the time that I was walking, taking some hikes.”

Brazilian stories

Prior to his residency in Silver City, Galera was coming off work that he did in Brazil.

“In Sao Paulo a lot of the buildings were disappearing, so he started documenting before they were torn down,” McCalmont said. “He kind of came with a desire to do the same thing here. Not that buildings are being torn down, but we have a lot of old adobes that are crumbling out in the rural areas that just show change. The seasons and things as described by the name of the show (‘Aprils, Summers, Fires and Good-Nights’).”

For this part of the project Galera toyed with memory and desire and used T.S. Eliot’s poem as an inspiration for the concept.

“And what’s memory and desire? Memory it’s what we did and desire is what we want,” he said. “So in this part I want to make these questions and show a little bit about my concept about memory and desire.”

A depiction of a fallen structure in Grant County illustrated by artist Joao Galera.

The third and final component of the exhibition involved people in the Grant County community.

“The other part of the project, the people, we decided to use clay, and we invited different groups, different people to do with one piece of clay one object that is important for each one,” Galera said. “We went to a lot of places, schools, churches, festivals, the farmers market, here at the university and we have now around 700 pieces.”

Due to the pandemic Galera was unable to fire all of the clay pieces. But it is his intent to complete the project before heading back to Brazil this June.

“We are going to crotchet, to link all the objects together, and make this community art installation,” he explains in the lecture. “I think this part of the project was really important for us because we had one idea of the United States, one idea of Silver City and sharing in talk with other people was really important. We could go to different kinds of places with different ideas and listen and talk and this part of the project is about talking and sharing. So I think all these objects can show this memory of these people and also the memory of the process that we passed through together.”

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