Growing up in rural New Mexico shaped my curiosity for a range of human geographies, from the smallest to the largest temporal scales.
My work as an artist has allowed me to elaborate and translate these complex intersections and helped me better understand the immense physical and cultural entanglements in my home region of the planet. When I work, I wonder about the relationship between the American Southwest’s political, cultural, and geo-sculptural artifacts. One of the geographies that have been curious to me is arroyos, those steep-sided gullies formed by the action of fast-flowing water.
In New Mexico, arroyos are some of the most stunning features in the state, but they are, in fact, wastelands. Arroyos have been around the North American Southwest for over 10,000 yrs. Yet, land misuses like overgrazing, clearcutting, and fire suppression have dramatically accelerated their proliferation in the last century. Arroyos deplete the water table and drop enormous amounts of sediment downstream. They destroy arable land, drain our marshes, harm agriculture, and provoke flash flooding.
This interest in arroyos led me to work for New Mexico’s Southern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority (SSCFCA), where I researched the history of flooding in the village of Corrales, NM in relationship to the growing Westside and Rio Rancho, west of Albuquerque, NM and developed an esthetic component to stormwater management as an Artist in Residence. I was fortunate to work alongside Civil Engineers who taught me about the local history of specific arroyos and engineering facets of stormwater management. In 2017, I won a SITE Santa Fe-sponsored seed money grant (SPREAD 6.0) to explore the cause and effect of human-induced arroyos. I was also awarded a full scholarship from the prestigious Santa Fe Art Institute for an Art and Equal Justice Residency, where I combined primary and secondary research to examine arroyos as narrative allegories and auguries for the economic and environmental health of the larger region. I was also fortunate to receive funding for lab time at the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) with a geo-hydro engineer to finesse a sculptural device I had designed to serve as a forced stormwater infiltration and deceleration site. The goal was to use geo-hydro engineering modeling software to test the object for its capacity to deal with runoff rates and the volume of stormwater. This work eventually led me to the Rio Grande (see Reverse the Curse) and other transnational rivers. Over the last few months, I began an exciting collaboration with hydrologist Val Tien-Shin Chang. Chang has worked in civil engineering in California, hydrology in Washington, and now geography in Oregon. After meeting as fellow residents at the 2023 Changing Climate residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, we became very intrigued by our different perspectives. We wondered how working together could inform each other’s practices.
Currently, each representing our fields of science and art, we are working to develop an in-depth study of the Mekong River to include a range of topics from philosophy, history, anthropology, geology, hydrology, and sociology.
Our goal is to better understand human and non-human communities along the Mekong, from northern Tibet to Lijiang, from Luang Prabang to Phnom Penh to Can Tho, a journey between worlds fragilely conjoined, to contribute to imagining new ways to inhabit the Earth beyond globalization and territory.