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UCROSS: A Por­trait in Place at Lan­nan Foun­da­tion Gallery

Through Dec. 11, the Lan­nan Foun­da­tion hosts an ex­hi­bi­tion — or, more specif­i­cally, an en­gag­ing, mul­ti­di­men­sional por­trait of a vast west­ern land­scape. In their pieces, the seven par­tic­i­pat­ing artists, all alumni of the Land Arts of the Amer­i­can West pro­gram at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico, re­spond to time spent roam­ing over a 20,000-acre cat­tle and sheep ranch in north­east­ern Wy­oming. Their ex­plo­rations of the Ucross Ranch and their art­mak­ing were aided by Char­lie Bet­tigole, di­rec­tor of the Ucross High Plains Stew­ard­ship Ini­tia­tive, which is based at the ranch and at Yale Univer­sity’s School of Forestry & En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies.

The works in UCROSS: A Por­trait in Place are staged on eight walls in the ele­gant Lan­nan ex­hi­bi­tion space. At first glance, the dis­play of ob­jects can eas­ily ap­pear cryp­tic. There are two- and three-di­men­sional works in an in­trigu­ing ar­ray of ma­te­ri­als and forms — pho­to­graphs, can­vas scrolls, a hand­made jour­nal, a video in­stal­la­tion, maps, dried grasses, dig­i­tal prints, a gar­ment, 21 soil sam­ples, and a herd of origami bi­son — as well as field record­ings. But the vis­i­tor’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions are re­warded as the show’s con­cept is re­vealed.

The UNM Land Arts pro­gram en­cour­ages im­mer­sion in West­ern land­scapes and re­spon­sive, in situ cre­ation of art­works. The ex­am­ples in UCROSS, which are also the result of in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tions with ecol­o­gists, in­ter­min­gle and play off one an­other. And they are all wit­nessed by the vis­i­tor in a ver­i­ta­ble cra­dle of na­ture noises. Bet­tigole worked with one of the artists, Joseph Mougel, to cre­ate the Ucross Avi­a­tion Sound­scape/Ucross Sounds multi-chan­nel au­dioscape. It features not just bird­song but also the sounds of wind, streams, trains, and bugs sam­pled through­out the ranch. The 20-minute loop record­ing, per­haps timed to co­in­cide with the av­er­age vis­i­tor’s pe­rusal of the ex­hibit, features bird voices segue­ing through the sea­sons, from spring to win­ter, then con­cludes with owl vo­cal­iza­tions grad­u­ally re­plac­ing the calls of jun­cos, mead­owlarks, sage grouse, and other di­ur­nal species.

The ex­hibit is grounded in ecol­ogy, tech­nol­ogy, and sci­ence, as well as art. It was pre­vi­ously staged in the art gallery of the Ucross Foun­da­tion, which op­er­ates art-re­treat fa­cil­i­ties at the Wy­oming ranch, and then at the Yale School of Forestry & En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies. Christie Davis, con­tem­po­rary art and pub­lic pro­grams di­rec­tor at Lan­nan, cu­rated the Santa Fe ex­hi­bi­tion. “It’s a lit­tle bit un­usual for us, be­cause we don’t own any of the work,” she said, “but Lan­nan has been the Land Arts of the Amer­i­can West pro­gram’s ma­jor fun­der and ac­tu­ally en­dowed a chair at UNM for that.”

The pre­sen­ta­tion at Lan­nan is also seen as a recog­ni­tion of the con­tri­bu­tions of Bill Gil­bert, the 1999 founder and long­time chair of the Land Arts pro­gram and one of the show’s par­tic­i­pat­ing artists. Gil­bert re­cently retired from the post and has been suc­ceeded by Subhankar Banerjee.

Cyn­thia Brinich-Lan­glois is the first artist you en­counter in UCROSS. She fo­cused on leafy spurge, an in­va­sive plant species that Davis said ev­ery­one on the ranch hates. The artist painted the species in seven stages of its death. The spurge may be a scourge, but her 7-by-10-inch The Death of a Leafy Spurge draw­ings are nonethe­less beau­ti­ful; the prints are ar­rest­ing, al­most min­i­mal­ist, views of a sprig of the plant.

Brinich-Lan­glois fash­ioned a pair of 12-inch-by12-foot can­vas scroll pieces — Book of Hours: Sheep Ex­clo­sure, which is edged in sheep’s wool; and Book of Hours: Tire Trough, edged in leather. Along each of their lengths are eight pan­els of cyan­otype-printed wood­cut scenes of the ranch’s flora and moun­tain

hori­zons. In the sky ar­eas she added writ­ten el­e­ments, such as, “Joseph brought me din­ner and mos­qui­tos,” and “Bum­ble­bees think I’m a flower and will not be per­suaded oth­er­wise,” that tell lit­tle sto­ries about her time spent at work on the land­scape. Davis chose the Erika Os­borne paint­ing

Split Es­tates as the ex­hi­bi­tion im­age. The ti­tle dates from the Homestead Act and re­lates to fed­eral pos­ses­sion of min­eral rights on land oth­er­wise owned by the “landowner.” Os­borne cel­e­brates the West­ern land­scape with a ro­man­tic view (à la Al­bert Bier­stadt) but it’s punc­tu­ated by oil and gas fa­cil­i­ties.

Jeanette Hart-Mann’s in­stal­la­tion piece with Char­lie Bet­tin­gole, With­out Soil There is No Color, could be an in­trigu­ing ex­am­ple of an artist in­no­va­tively in­ter­science act­ing with — but in her bio we see that she has of­ten worked in this realm; she is, among other things, the co-founder of the SeedBroad­cast Col­lec­tive and co-di­rec­tor of a re­search farm in An­ton Chico. One sec­tion of her UCROSS in­stal­la­tion is a se­quence of 21 al­ter­nat­ing, fixed-po­si­tion videos of the ground, plus recorded am­bi­ent sounds. Along the bot­tom of each of the black-and-white mov­ing images, a color band cor­re­lates to in­for­ma­tion on a map and two color charts that de­tail the var­i­ous soil types. Below the soil keys and map is a se­ries of small wooden shelves with ac­tual soil sam­ples.

If you pic­ture set­tlers home­steading in this highin plains re­gion the 1800s, wor­ried about wa­ter and car­ry­ing all of their ir­re­place­able pos­ses­sions in trunks, you’re in the world imag­ined by Ce­dra Wood. Her acrylic-on-panel art­works in a se­ries ti­tled

Trans­plants por­tray a woman and a man — mod­eled by Brinich-Lan­glois and artist Joseph Mougel — haul­ing their be­long­ings in beau­ti­ful but cold land­in­vokes scapes. She our con­fronta­tion with new, un­fa­mil­iar lo­cales and the ques­tion­able va­lid­ity of im­ported ideas and ideals. She also cre­ated gar­ments based on de­signs from the home­steading era and on an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of this area’s plant species.

Mougel imag­ined him­self as a grass farmer in the 19th cen­tury. The ar­ti­facts of his time at the Ucross Ranch in­clude a won­der­ful book, A Jour­nal of a Grass

Farmer, with beau­ti­ful cur­sive writ­ing and del­i­cate draw­ings of plants; and Un­ti­tled Grass Ar­range­ment,a se­lec­tion of ac­tual grasses, along with lit­tle la­bels, in an an­tique Ma­son jar. He also made a se­ries of images, in­clud­ing the 32-by-40-inch print Bed­ding/Cache and 57 jewel-like am­brotypes of plant ma­te­ri­als. The for­mer rep­re­sents the sleep­ing place of an an­te­lope or other large mam­mal. “When an an­i­mal beds down at night, he imag­ined all the seeds that would be un­leashed from the act and car­ried into the wind,” Davis said. She ar­ranged the am­brotypes as if they had been taken by a breeze, strewn off the large print and up the ad­ja­cent walls.

In Yoshimi Hayashi’s I’mmi­gra­tion, 2013 to Present we see scores of origami-pa­per bi­son and a few birds ar­ranged on a long shelf. The artist thought about the huge num­bers of bi­son that once roamed on this land, as well as about mi­gra­tion, mi­grant work­ers, Mex­i­can buffalo hun­ters, and a bor­der across which peo­ple used to roam freely. The face on all the origami pa­pers is that of Brise­nia Flores, a young girl who was mur­dered, along with her fa­ther, in Ari­zona by the rad­i­cal Min­ute­men, who mis­took her for an il­le­gal im­mi­grant. Hayashi in­ter­spersed into his herd a few cranes, a Ja­panese sym­bol of the hope that a loved one will re­cover from ill­ness or ward off bad luck.

Gil­bert is a walker, and much of his work is about walk­ing. For his art­work, he en­vi­sioned con­stel­la­tions pro­jected down onto the ground. He mapped out two con­stel­la­tions on the land­scape, then he walked them and at each star place he made a pho­to­graph of the plant life. His UCROSS work is pop­u­lated by many small pho­tos of plants, such as sego lily and soap­weed yucca. Then, with Bet­tigole, he com­posed Ter­res­trial/Ce­les­tial Nav­i­ga­tions — Orion: Grass­lands and Ter­res­trial/Ce­les­tial Nav­i­ga­tions — Eri­danus: Flood­plain: two large (42-by-50-inch) dig­i­tal prints of him­self, his sil­hou­ette as if cut out of an aerial photo of the ranch. These “doc­u­ment the land, my path and the plants en­coun­tered,” he writes in a state­ment about the work.

“A lot of this [ex­hibit] is about slow­ing down and looking,” Davis con­cluded. “It’s the result of a lot of con­tem­pla­tion.” — Paul Wei­de­man

UCROSS: A POR­TRAIT IN PLACE; through Dec. 11 Lan­nan Foun­da­tion Gallery, 309 Read St., 505-986-8160

Above, Yoshimi Hayashi:

I’mmi­gra­tion, 2013 to present, dis­per­sal in­stal­la­tion, pa­per; right, Jeanette Hart-Mann with Char­lie Bet­tigole: With­out Soil There Is No Color, 2015, in­stal­la­tion, archival fine art prints Op­po­site page, top left, Bill Gil­bert with Char­lie Bet­tigole: Ter­res­trial/ Ce­les­tial Nav­i­ga­tions - Orion: Grass­lands, July 20, 2013, Ucross, Wy­oming, dig­i­tal print, 2015; bot­tom right, Ce­dra Wood: Trans­plants VI, 2016, graphite on pa­per

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