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The New Mexico State University Art Museum will kick off its Spring 2021 season with three new exhibits, “Sorry for the Mess,” “Pasos Ajenos,” and “Saint Joseph & The Laborers.”

The three exhibitions will open to the public starting Jan. 21 through a timed ticket reservation system, allowing up to ten people to enter in 30-minute blocks.

“Sorry for the Mess (SFTM),” featuring work by artists Justin Favela and Ramiro Gomez, originated at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It focuses on labor, childhood memories and life as first-generation Americans in the Southwest.

Favela, a Las Vegas native and Guatemalan Mexican American, works primarily in large-scale installations that use piñata-cut tissue paper sculptures to elevate impactful childhood objects and memories amplifying them for an audience who might find similar value in them. Gomez was born in San Bernardino, Calif. to undocumented Mexican immigrant parents who are now U.S. citizens. Gomez’s work explores the complexities of labor, creating space for gardeners, nannies, custodians and many other workers who are ever present but often remain silenced in narratives of others.

“For the many who grew up here in Las Cruces, that have seen their parents work in these jobs, the work of Favela and Gomez offers a special opportunity to invite them and the rest of our community into the art museum, creating a space that welcomes and celebrates those who have traditionally been left out of galleries, yet have always been there through their labor to build and maintain our beloved art spaces,” said Marisa Sage, director of the museum.

Through a dreamlike and youthful interpretation of abstracted memories, Favela and Gomez use familiar symbols and characters from television series such as “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” along with common materials such piñata paper, cardboard, crayons, rubber, and papier-mâché.

A majority of the exhibition will be loaned directly from the UNLV Art Museum, but will also include an interactive site-specific piece created by Favela. The display runs through April 3.

Prior to the opening, Favela will host a live virtual workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, via Zoom. Favela will teach community members and children how to create piñata-style paper sculptures for a desert garden that will be integrated into the show. This live interactive event will also be recorded and posted on the UAM website for individuals to access after the event. To register, visit https://nmsu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApduyrrTsoGNZiibnyof39oKKDaE2WXuxu.  

The opening night of Favela and Gomez’s exhibition will feature an online “Directors Discussion” with Sage and Alisha Kerlin, executive director of the Barrick Museum of Art at 6 p.m. via Zoom. To register, visit https://nmsu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYscOmqqD0uHtEbKZBBLtVmg7H7aIKzX1B3  

In addition to the main exhibition, in the Contemporary Gallery, the theme will be explored through another exhibit focused on social justice issues impacting the Las Cruces and El Paso Borderlands region, created by two criminal justice professors as part of NMSU’s Borderlands and Ethnic Studies program.

“Pasos Ajenos: Social Justice and Inequalities in the Borderlands,” created by Dulcinea Lara, director of the Borderlands and Ethnic Studies program and fellow criminal justice associate professor Nicholas Natividad, will be on display from Jan. 21 through April 3 in the Bunny Conlon Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery.

The exhibit designer is local artist Daniel Aguilera. Aguilera is an exhibits fabricator at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.

“Ultimately, it’s time we start understanding and healing generational traumas associated with colonization, war, environmental damage, and assimilationist education.” Lara said. “These phenomena have led to racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia in our beloved borderlands communities.”

“Pasos Ajenos” aims to examine regional issues of justice and inequality as they pertain to identity, labor, environment, history, immigration, law, and faith.

“We hope this museum exhibit will facilitate much-needed dialogue about all the dehumanizing practices in the border region,” Natividad said. “We are at a critical moment in this country where we need to increase conversations on social justice and develop and build “re-humanizing” educational curricula. The exhibit and NMSU’s new Borderlands and Ethnic Studies program works to achieve both.”

“Pasos Ajenos” features educational installations designed to appeal to a wide audience, ranging from school children to elders. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the exhibit’s educational programming will be altered in accordance with public health orders. For updates, visit https://uam.nmsu.edu/.  

The opening night of “Pasos Ajenos: Social Justice and Inequalities in the Borderlands,” exhibition will feature an online “Q & A with the creators of ‘Pasos Ajenos’” at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21 via Zoom video conferencing. To register, visit https://nmsu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYscOmqqD0uHtEbKZBBLtVmg7H7aIKzX1B3.  

“Saint Joseph & The Laborers” is a separate exhibition taking place in the Margie and Bobby Rankin Retablo Gallery on display from Jan. 21 through Aug. 31, which delves into the role of the laborer through the lens of Mexican retablo imagery.

Saints such as the Archangels: Saint Michael and Saint Raphael, San Miguel y San Rafael, Saint Isidore, San Isidro and Saint Vincent Ferrer, San Vicente Ferrer, are other key patrons of laborers in the Mexican Catholic faith. Their imagery is widespread across the Mexican retablos displayed in this exhibition.

As part of this display, the UAM will also present for the first time a Mexican statue, or bulto, as well as other retablo paintings from the recent donation to the NMSU Permanent Art Collection by leading retablo expert Gloria Fraser Giffords. This gallery will be curated by Courtney Uldrich, an NMSU master of arts candidate, as part of the course ART 597.

To learn more about these exhibits and other upcoming events, visit https://uam.nmsu.edu/.  

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