Large-scale resource extraction is a toxic and inescapable reality for those living in the southwestern United States. From the mining of uranium, oil, and coal, to the rerouting of water sources to generate hydroelectric power for major cities in the U.S., these material dislocations disproportionately harm Native American peoples in the region. An attention to these harmful extractions, and to the relationships between humans and the nonhuman environment, defines the practice of Santa Fe-based artist Will Wilson (Diné/Navajo). Through photography, installation, and performance, Wilson’s work addresses the balance required to maintain these lands, and the implications of our failure to do so.
The works on view in AIR / Survey engage with the visual traditions of landscape representation and survey photography in the U.S. Wilson’s large-scale photographs of mining sites inside of and bordering the Navajo Nation between New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona visualize, with uncompromising attention, how the destruction of land ultimately leads to the destruction of ourselves and our communities. A new multi-part installation for the Visual Arts Center envisions what an architecture of apocalypse might look like through structures built by its survivors. In addition, a reworked version of Wilson’s pre-existing AIR Lab installation contains plants and Medicines cultivated by Marika Alvarado, a Lipan Mescalero Apache Medicine Woman. Her wisdom and healing practice provides a local counterpoint to the ecological destruction highlighted in Wilson's photographs. Their collaboration speaks to the importance of cultural continuity, Indigenous wisdoms, and healing through the Earth.
Will Wilson: AIR / Survey is organized by Kaila Schedeen, 2019–2020 curatorial fellow, Visual Arts Center. Special thanks to Marika Alvarado and Evie Carr for their guidance and plant cultivation for AIR Lab.
This exhibition and its programming are generously funded by a number of groups across campus, including: Art Galleries at Black Studies; College of Fine Arts Diversity Committee Guest Artist Initiative; Native American and Indigenous Studies; Division for Diversity and Community Engagement; The Mesoamerica Center; Center for the Study of Modernism; Gwyn Shive, Anita Nordan Lindsay, and Joe & Cherry Gray Professorship in the History of Christianity; African and African Diaspora Studies Department; Department of History; Latino Studies at UT Austin; Department of Psychology; Center for Women’s & Gender Studies; Department of American Studies; Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice; and the Theresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies.
Additional thanks to the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University, San Marcos.
A selected bibliography related to the project can be found here. A list of the plants cultivated by Marika Alvarado and Evie Carr can be found here.
Will Wilson (b. 1969, San Francisco) received a BA from Oberlin College in 1993 and a Dissertation Tracked MFA from The University of New Mexico in 2002. Wilson has had solo exhibitions at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Norman (2017); Texas Tech University School of Art, Lubbock (2015); The Wheelwright Museum (2014-15); Denver Art Museum (2013); the National Museum of the American Indian, New York (2006); and The Heard Museum, Phoenix (2004). He has participated in group exhibitions at Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (2020); Krannert Art Museum, Champaign (2019-20); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2019-20); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2018-19); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2018-19); Seattle Art Museum (2018); Portland Art Museum (2016); and the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (2014). He is the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards, including the Mentor Artist Fellowship from the Native American Arts & Cultures Foundation (2018); the New Mexico Governor’s Excellence in Art Award (2017); the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in Photography (2016); the Rollin and Mary Ella King Fellowship from the School of Advanced Research (2013); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painters and Sculptors (2010). Wilson has been Head of the Photography Program at Santa Fe Community College since 2014.
Marika Alvarado is a Lipan Mescalero Apache Medicine Woman based in Central Texas. She is the founder of Of the Earth Institute of Indigenous Cultures and Teachings, and is a direct descendant of generations of Medicine Women: traditional native healers of spirit and body, midwives, and plant medicine practitioners. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt handed the medicine down to her. As a child, she was taught the traditional way, as her family tended those who came to them in need. She believes in teaching all people who have the dedication and spiritual will to use these teachings as Mother Earth and the generations before her intended.