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Building bridges, not border walls: SITElines stress connections among all of the Americas

SITE Santa Fe’s SITElines 2016 emphasizes the interconnectedness of all the Americas, with their shared experiences, colonial legacies, indigenous voices and relationships to the land.

“Borders are about more than a line,” SITE director Irene Hofmann said.

As visitors enter the SITE Santa Fe building, they’ll be greeted by a 26- by 14-foot metaphor, a re-creation of the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater. Commissioned by design pioneer Lloyd Kiva New, it was completed in 1970. Its design spans cultures and traditions, including Native American, Spanish Colonial and European.

Five curators chose the biennial’s 35 participating artists, including several from Albuquerque.

Margarita Cabrera’s “Space in Between — Agave” in collaboration with Doris Lindo. Border Patrol uniform fabric, copper wire, thread and terra cotta pot. (Courtesy of Fredrik Nilsen)

Margarita Cabrera’s “Space in Between — Agave” in collaboration with Doris Lindo. Border Patrol uniform fabric, copper wire, thread and terra cotta pot. (Courtesy of Fredrik Nilsen)

El Paso-based fabric artist Margarita Cabrera gathered Hispanic immigrants in Houston, Charlotte, N.C., and Tempe, Ariz., to create cactus sculptures stitched from Border Patrol uniforms. The SITE series will feature similar sculptures made by community workshop members in collaboration with the Santa Fe Art Institute.

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“I had been collecting them at flea markets,” Cabrera said. “The uniform, unfortunately, has a very negative connotation. I’m trying to change that and create a different image to that fabric and that symbol of authority. We’re creating a new landscape with them.”

That scenery encompasses cactus and succulents appearing along migrant border crossings.

“They sew and embroider on the surface of these sculptures,” Cabrera said. “As you get closer, you find the buttons and closures that tell this important story.”

University of New Mexico communication and journalism professor Miguel Gandert’s portraits capture life in Bernalillo County’s South Valley.

In the 1980s, Gandert was one of 12 photographers commissioned by the New Mexico Museum of Art to document the state for a book funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“They are all portraits on the street,” Gandert said.

“Civic Plaza” by Miguel Gandert.

“Civic Plaza” by Miguel Gandert.

In one image, the architecture of the Civic Plaza offers a backdrop for a water fountain, as well as a makeshift pool for local residents.

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Gandert’s intimate photograph of a couple in a car conveys a sense of lowrider culture as well as their relationship.

“I was literally in the car,” he said. “The door was open. As I moved in closer to get the shots, the guy’s hand goes to the woman’s knee. I hope the viewer absorbs that kind of intimacy, myself as their surrogate.”

Francisca Benitez breaks down barriers – specifically those between the deaf and hearing communities.

Born in Chile and trained in architecture, Benitez lives in New York.

On Sept. 30, Benitez will lead a group of students from SITE Santa Fe to the New Mexico School for the Deaf and back for an America Sign Language poetry jam session. The two institutions have never collaborated before.

“It’s very close to me and personal, because my father was deaf,” Benitez said.

The simple act of walking together creates a connection that can be difficult to achieve between a hearing person and a deaf person, she added.

Francisca Benitez’s “As you lean on me and I lean on you, we move forward,” 2015. (Courtesy of Friends of the High Line)

Francisca Benitez’s “As you lean on me and I lean on you, we move forward,” 2015. (Courtesy of Friends of the High Line)

At SITE, the students will present collections from the school’s Kenneth E. Brasel Centennial Museum. Benitez has chosen five 1960s photographs of deaf students communicating with one another.

About the same time the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater was built, a small poetry quarterly issued in Mexico City gave voice to progressive poets and writers across continents.

“El Corno Emplumado/The Plumed Horn,” co-founded and edited by Albuquerque’s Margaret Randall, represented the cutting edge of independent publishing. Randall will present an installation of El Corno at SITElines.

Distributed throughout the Americas, El Corno established a network of writers and artists seeking a supportive venue for rebellion.

Those voices included Mexican poets, the Beats, indigenous writers and the surrealists. If the Paolo Soleri provides a physical symbol for “sitelines,” El Como is its metaphorical equivalent.

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