ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the pandemic hit, it seemed like everyone could use an extra set of hands, but no one more than Albuquerque public artist Mark Horst.
Like many artists, Horst had to pivot.
The public art installation “Blessing Hands” was originally intended to be an interactive piece, but due to statewide health orders, a planned public event in Fort Sumner couldn’t be held.
According to Horst, “Blessing Hands” was envisioned as a way to offer blessings and recognition to the Navajo and Mescalero Apache people killed and mistreated at Fort Sumner during the “long walk,” and also as a way of listening to and receiving what the ancestors might offer.
Horst began to reimagine how to create a series of translucent, circular fabric walls painted with colorful hand prints representing dawn, dusk, night, day and healing.
That’s when he reached out to the Escuela del Sol Montessori community, which shares a campus with Harwood Art Center. Horst also has his studio there.
“Art, expression, community and service are critical components of a truly integrative, experiential, holistic approach to lifelong learning and discovery at Escuela,” said Elementary Coordinator Sarah Louderbough. “An experience like this will stick with these children and may come back to them in remarkable ways.”
Over two days, Escuela staff and students, from toddlers through junior high, gathered in the school’s plaza to lend their hands – and blessings – to Horst’s project.
“I was so impressed with the students from Escuela del Sol Montessori. They participated in the hand printing process with such respect and thoughtfulness. I just loved working with them and their teachers,” Horst said.
The students enjoyed getting their hands dirty by dipping them into green, yellow, blue, white and black paint. But they also understood the reverential nature of the work they were contributing to.
“What made it fun for me was sticking my hands in the paint and rubbing it on my arms, and it was super cool how our hands made ghost prints with the colors,” said Escuela del Sol fifth grader William Collins, 11. ” “It felt good to be part of the ‘long walk’ project. We learned about it, and I felt bad for the people who walked 300 miles. It felt good to be part of a project about them.”
“Blessing Hands” is part of the New Mexico Arts/Art in Public Places Program, T.I.M.E. NOW Project: Bosque Redondo Historic Site 2021. It will be installed at the Bosque Redondo Historic Site from June 11 to Aug. 31.