On Friday, February 17th, NMWA will open two exhibitions featuring women artists of the Southwest. In Border Crossing: Jami Porter Lara, Albuquerque-based artist Jami Porter Lara (b. 1969) uses a millennia-old process to make pottery resembling a ubiquitous icon of modern life—the plastic bottle. New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin explores the work of potter Maria Martinez (ca. 1887–1980) and photographer Laura Gilpin (1891–1979).
In Border Crossing, conceptual artist Jami Porter Lara explores connections between ideas that are typically set at odds: nature and artifice, art and trash, and past and present. Her works urge viewers to rethink these divisions by combining processes of the past with iconography of the present day. Her clay vessels, coil-built by hand, resemble the plastic bottle, an object that signifies recent human activity and material culture.
She takes inspiration from the remains of ancient pottery, which she has found scattered along the U.S.–Mexico border interspersed with the present-day detritus of migrants heading north. Porter Lara speaks of her work as a reverse archaeological process; she digs into issues of the present and the future by applying tools of the past. Using traditional methods to make contemporary vessels, Porter Lara recasts the throwaway plastic bottle and invites viewers to contemplate how time and place inform our interpretations of objects.
New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin presents a perspective on the Southwest contrary to dominant 19th- and 20th-century narratives, which typically cast the American West as a masculine place of staged romance or rugged conquest. Pueblo potter Maria Martinez and photographer Laura Gilpin brought the American Southwest into focus as a culturally rich region that fostered artistic expression.
New Ground pairs 26 ceramic pieces by Martinez with more than 40 vintage photographs by Gilpin, offering documentary and physical connections between the land, the people, and their art-making traditions.
Martinez’s strikingly modern-looking vessels grew out of ancient Pueblo artistic traditions, which she and her husband, Julian, revived. Gilpin, hailed during her lifetime as the “grand dame of American photography,” is best known for her documentary prints, which include aerial landscapes and intimate portraits.
Works on view in both exhibitions transcend conventional ideas about Southwestern art and explore the region as a place where modernity reckons with the past.