Curiosity: From the Faraway Nearby
“We have been welcoming aerospace and aviation innovation to our wide open New Mexico skies for decades. White Sands, Kirtland Air Force Base, and our two national labs have been instrumental in establishing an infrastructure conducive to growth in everything from avionics to R&D, and they continue to attract new prospects for economic development. Plus the bold creation of Spaceport America ensures that the State will continue to stay at the forefront of aerospace technologies for years to come."
Fred Mondragon, former Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Economic Development Department
The westward, open terrain and a frontier spirit make New Mexico the perfect home for the outsourcing of space travel to private business. This new New Mexico landscape is a reflection of the US federal budget’s current emphasis on “private development of commercial sub-orbital flight and lunar exploration.” (Citizens in Space.org) Space exploration is no longer a national ‘cold war’ pastime. Travel to Mars (and the moon) has progressed from abstract concept to privatized, de-regulated venture. Aerospace has been a part of New Mexico’s economy since the 1940s, when the Holloman and Kirtland Air Force Bases were established as flight training centers for World War II pilots. New Mexico is home to more than 100 aerospace companies serving military and civilian needs, and the State has the highest per capita concentration of both PhDs and global research centers for aerospace in the country—all geared to profitability.
This new New Mexico landscape, while economically and technologically tantalizing, is also fraught with potential for the exploitation of natural resources (and cultures). In this brave new world, Art is unwittingly coupled by commerce with science and technology. And, as noted in this June 2012 ARTnews article, space travel has "become an obsession among contemporary artists who are re-enacting journeys to Mars, making replicas of astronaut gear, even training with NASA."
Speculative landscapes focusing on the subject of zero gravity, art in space, and aliens among us are the subject of the exhibit Curiosity: From the Faraway Nearby. Artists Eugene Newmann, John Conell, Connie Samaras, Joe Clower, Marc Baseman. Jeff Alu, and Charles Luna all have one thing in common: they share a conscious (or subconscious) yearning to explore the unknown expanse that we call space. Marc Baseman’s (Taos, New Mexico) recurrent vision of mushrooms and UFOs has its source in the subconscious, while the-blink-of-an-eye clarity of Connie Samaras (born and raised in New Mexico, now living in Los Angeles) is focused with full consciousness on the Space projects so prevalent in the new New Mexico landscape. The role of the artist in this exhibit is to present an objective, dispassionate view of this regional topic.
Jina Brenneman, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions