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‘A really smart project’

Axle Contemporary’s mobile gallery features “Pandemic Elegy” by Basia Irland. (Courtesy of Basia Irland)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Basia Irland knows how to make a statement.

She’s done it for her entire career as an artist.

Known for her artwork focusing on international water issues, rivers, waterborne diseases and water scarcity, Irland is not one to shy away.

She’s bold in her message.

With her latest work, “Pandemic Elegy,” Irland’s work is timely as the world is dealing with a pandemic.

The University of New Mexico professor emerita is the first artist to be featured on Axle Contemporary’s mobile gallery. The mobile gallery will be on view from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, on the Santa Fe Plaza. The full schedule can be viewed at

The gallery reached out to Irland to do broadsides for the mobile gallery. A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on one side only and attached to the mobile.

“I’ve never done a project with them,” Irland says. “They had a call out for artists and it’s a really smart project. The whole reason they set this up is because people aren’t allowed inside the mobile gallery. With the broadsides on the vehicle, people will be able to drive around and see it while following all social distancing practices.”

“Pandemic Elegy” features a series of winged boats flying over water to honor those who have died from COVID-19.

Irland’s inspiration is how humans are feeling about the pandemic.

“We’re all in this,” she says. “Every single person is going through and suffering the loss of friends through the virus.”

Irland’s life was affected when Peter Pino, a well-known and well-respected former governor of Zia, passed away due to COVID-19 on May 3.

Axle Contemporary’s mobile gallery will feature the artist’s work on broadsides attached to the vehicle. Shown is Basia Irland’s “Pandemic Elegy.” (Courtesy of Basia Irland)

“It affected me so deeply because I had worked with Peter on various water committees,” she says. “I started thinking of ways to create a piece of art. My work deals with social justice and fresh water issues.”

Irland used the image of the boat to think of it as a coffin – but not in a morbid way. The original painting was done on bamboo leaves.

“They are flying over a body of water,” she says. “They are carrying the souls of the departed.”

Irland has created water projects in New Mexico, as well as in Egypt, Ethiopia, India and Nepal.

Since 2015, she has written blogs for National Geographic about international rivers, including waterways in Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, India, and across the United States and Canada.

She says her art often involves facilitating and fostering connections – with rivers and with each other.

“We are water. Our bodies house streams: lymph, bile, sweat, blood, mucus, urine,” she says in a statement. “Water enters, circulates, leaves – individualized hydrologic cycles. Water has always fed my soul whether floating weightless in a natural lake, face up, looking at the clouds; sitting on a rock beside an ever-changing stream; wading barefoot in a cold creek; or hiking to the source of a river. Absorbing water’s presence, especially in wild regions, prepares me to come back to the city and carry on with my urban tasks.”

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