Saturday, December 15, 2012

Glorious Weavings of Irvin and Lisa Trujillo

Buscando la Malinche by Irvin Trujillo
permanent collection of the Smithsonian

Irvin and Lisa Trujillo are impressive weavers who have kept the Rio Grande weaving tradition alive as well as combining traditional Chimayo weaving design with very contemporary and unique motifs and designs all their own. Irvin is an National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. Both Irv and Lisa have received numerous awards for their weavings. Irv just received Best of Show at the most recent Spanish Market in Santa Fe.

Irv and Lisa at Spanish Market

We were excited to interview Irv at their magnificent store and studio in Chimayo called Centinela Traditional Arts where they showcase not only their own work but also promote the work of other Chimayo weavers. The store is an absolute color lovers dream and the craftsmanship in their weavings is awesome. They are both smart, articulate, talented and down to earth people who are so enjoyable to be around.

 Fran Hardy interviewing Irvin at Centinela Traditional Arts for our New Mexico documentary

Centinela Traditional Arts is in Chimayo, New Mexico and I recommend a visit if you are in our state.
Irv is a seventh generation Chimayo weaver. His family was weaving back in the 1720s and Irv's father passed the tradition on to Irv who is passionate about weaving. He passed that tradition on to his wife, Lisa whose work also shows consummate craftsmanship and innovative design.

Irv at the loom

Grapes and Lime by Lisa Trujillo shows her bold and unique use of innovative color and design.

This weaving and the ones that will follow are going to be in our exhibition January 14-February 14 at New Mexico Highlands University at Burris Hall. Come to the reception January 31st from 5-7pm and you will be able to view our documentary in progress at 7pm at Ilfeld Auditorium.
We will also be having an exhibition of the artists interviewed in our documentary at the Santa Fe Art Institute for the month of April 2013.  

Gold Circle by Irvin Trujillo
It is hard to see the metallic thread that is utilized in this piece which gives it a gorgeous luminosity.

Lisa is known for her fine spinning of wool and Irvin for his remarkable dye work using both natural and commercial dyes. We shot Irv dying with local chamisa he gathers in their fields and indigo he orders on a fall day. He was also combining the two to create a variety of tones and hues.

Emergence by Irvin Trujillo

Indigo Chimayo by Irvin Trujillo, a piece done in the Chimayo traditional style

Perception II by Irvin Trujillo shows his innovative contemporary designs

The five thousand or so churro sheep that came to New Mexico with Coronado's expedtion in 1540 were too valued as food to these original settlers to survive and become established flocks in the new territories. New Mexico proved to be a hospitable place for churro, and the sheep thrived to become an important part of the Spanish colony's economy. Wool in an unprocessed form would be too difficult to transport (other than on the backs of sheep) to be of value as a trade item. Blankets, however, were in great demand by surrounding trading partners, and by 1840, records show tens of thousands of weavings traded out of New Mexico. Of course, they were used in New Mexico, to ward off the cold of mountain nights, and, in early years, as a wearing blanket. Domestic use as well as those for commerce caused a substantial industry to develop, employing sheepherders, spinners and weavers.
Although there was a variety of woven goods produced as part of this trade, the single item in greatest demand was what came to be called the Rio Grande blanket, a general term encompassing the entire weaving tradition of Hispanic New Mexico. More specifically, it describes a weft-faced, striped blanket, longer than wide. They are woven on a European floor loom with the weaver standing at the loom, his weight on the pedals serving to open a path for the shuttle. Before the industrial revolution brought metal reeds (the comb part of the loom) to New Mexico, handmade reeds limited the width of the looms to roughly 30 inches. A suitable blanket width was achieved by a double weave using four harnesses, essentially weaving a folded blanket leaving a telltale center ridge; or two pieces sewn together with a center seam.
The Saltillo serape employs the two-pieces-seamed approach. These incredibly fine and detailed tapestries were produced under the auspices of the wealthiest landedhacenderos in Mexico. As these weavings became a source of great national pride in Mexico, weavers here in New Mexico emulated their southern counterparts. What was woven here is much coarser, but follows the style of a bordered rectangle with a serrate diamond in the center. Rio Grande Saltillos demonstrate great variety in design, seldom adhering to any formula. The Mexican Saltillo is the likely source of the use of tapestry in Rio Grande weaving tradition, which resulted in the inclusion of Saltillo-type elements introduced between stripes becoming a distinctive style in Rio Grande blankets.
The first style that actually develops here in New Mexico is a form evolved from the Saltillo. It adds an eight-pointed star element to the Saltillo's vertical border and central diamond. This becomes a distinct style called Vallero. This development takes place in the mid-nineteenth century, as Americans first come to the area. The star may have been copied from American quilts, or perhaps derived from old Moorish architectural elements. Vallero weaving evidenced the impact of the industrial revolution, as commercial Germantown yarns and synthetic aniline dyes were adopted by local weavers. As a result of the availability of brighter colors, Valleros are typically very vivid, unlike the more sedate colors produced by natural dyes used earlier.
Other changes began to make their way to New Mexico as well. New breeds of sheep were introduced that were more productive meat and wool producers. Their wool, however, was difficult to spin resulting in a somewhat lumpy effect. Milled lumber made looms less bulky and metal reeds made a wider loom possible. In 1880, the railroad brought cotton "string" warp and commercially spun wool, making spinning unnecessary, but the finished piece was less durable with a cotton warp. Most threatening for the Rio Grande weavers was the train's cargo of mill-woven blankets, making their cottage industry largely obsolete.
Of course weavers still wove. They wove to produce blankets for their family, as Irvin Trujillo's grandparents did. Before long curio dealers in Santa Fe put their skills to use and a new industry developed, weaving the Chimayo style. Begun in the early years of this century, this style is basically two stripes and a center design. The stripes are clearly derived from the Rio Grande blanket, and the center design is an outgrowth of Saltillo tapestry techniques. Along with a uniform texture obtained by the use of commercial yarn obtained from a standard source, the style becomes distinct, recognizable. A commercial wool warp replaces the inferior cotton warp. Sizes in the industry become standardized and over the years new products develop.

Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom. However, it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each coloured weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design.[1][2]
Most weavers use a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton. The weft threads are usually wool or cotton, but may include silkgold,silver, or other alternatives.
For the latest on events at the Santa Fe Art Institute.
For the latest on events at the Burris Hall gallery on the campus of New Mexico Highlands University.
New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) is a public university located in Las VegasNew Mexico.
Located in Las Vegas, a city with a population of about 16,000, Highlands’ main campus is close to recreational and wilderness areas, and within an hour's drive of Santa Fe and 2 hours from Albuquerque.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art and Ecology by Bill Gilbert

Hercules at Calperum Station by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/Celestial Navigation series

One of the things I love the most about doing the Earth Chronicles Project is having the opportunity to meet and interview such an interesting and diverse group of people and groups. It was so stimulating talking to Bill Gilbert about the fortuitous circumstances that led to him starting the Land Arts Program at University of New Mexico which has grown to the umbrella of the Art and Ecology program.
You can go to the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe and see an impressive exhibition of student work from the Land Arts program.

The Land Arts program came about as the brainchild of Bill Gilbert. Bill was talking to his friend Douglas Humble about his desire to combine indigenous ceramic and earthworks in a place based Land Arts Course that led to his being introduced by Doug to Patrick Lannan. And lo and behold the Lannan Foundation was excited about Bill's idea and that is how the Land Arts program at UNM got its start. The program still receives funding from the prestigious Lannan Foundation and Bill is the Lannan Endowed Chair of the department.

The Land Arts program started out studying the now famous Land Arts movement in the wide open spaces of the west. Now they are involved in a variety of very interactive field projects including going to the rural, impoverished community of Buena Vista in El Paso, Texas just across the border from Mexico and helping them with various projects to help empower and uplift the community. 

It was also fascinating seeing Bill's work and hearing about the thought processes that go into it. I was particularly drawn to his Terrestrial/Celestial Navigations series. I am going to give you Bill's words in explaining this series:

Terrestrial/Celestial Navigations, 2011

Part of my ongoing experiment in constructing a portrait of place by walking the surface of the planet, terrestrial/celestial navigations honors the relationship desert peoples have with the sky by weaving together heaven and earth. Each walk inscribes the land with the patterns of stars earlier cultures created to project their world into the night sky. In this series, I employ pedestrian and satellite technologies using google earth to establish GPS points for each star and my body to then inscribe constellations by walking them onto 
the ground.

Lepus in New South Wales by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/ Celestial Navigation series

These pieces are not only visually beautiful but several of them have QR codes so if you have a smart phone you can walk these lonely expanses with Bill. You even get to hear his encounter with an Emu which is the largest bird native to Australia. I also love the images of native plants that Bill encountered and integrated in 'Hercules'. One gets the opportunity to taste the experience of walking with Bill through these majestic otherworldy landscapes.

Scorpio in the San Rafael Swell by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/Celestial Navigation series

Here are a series of production stills from our time shooting in Bill's studio;
Bob putting a mic on Bill for his interview

Bob setting up for dolly shots of the interview

Setting up to shoot Bill talking about his series called "For John Wesley Powell: attempts to walk the grid 2005-2007". One of Bill's pieces in this series will be in our exhibition at New Mexico Highlands University as well as "Hercules" and "Lepus" from January 14- February 14, 2013. Bill's work will also be in our exhibition at Santa Fe Art Institute for the month of April 2013.

Bob shooting Bill at work in his studio

Bob and Bill on the expansive landscape surrounding Bill's studio and home

To see more about Bill's work:

More about the Land Arts program:

More about the Art and Ecology program:

Land Arts of the American West is a studio-based field program[News 1] that seeks to construct an expanded definition of land art through direct experience connecting the full range of human interventions in the landscape—from pre-contact indigenous to contemporary practice. Land art includes everything from constructing a road, to taking a walk, building a monument, and leaving a mark in the sand. The program seeks to expand upon connections between typically separate fields. Each fall we spend two months camping while traveling 7,000 miles to engage sites that range from the CLUI complex at Wendover, Utah to the pottery culture at Mata Ortiz, Mexico, from earth works like Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty to archeological sites like Chaco Canyon. We learn from the fact that Donald Juddsurrounded himself with both contemporary sculpture and Navajo rugs; that Chaco Canyon and Roden Crater function as celestial instruments; and that the Very Large Array is a scientific research center with a powerful aesthetic presence on the land. We spend the semester living and working in the landscape with guest scholars that expand the range of our definition in disciplines including archeology, art history, architecture, ceramics, criticism, writing, design, and studio art. The immersive nature of how we experience the landscape triggers an amalgamated body of inquiry where students have the opportunity of time and space to develop authority in their work through direct action and reflection. Land Arts hinges on the primacy of first person experience and the realization that human-land relationships are rarely singular.
Land Arts of the American West started at the University of New Mexico by artist Bill Gilbert in 2000 and developed as a collaboration between Gilbert and architect Chris Taylor since 2001. From 2002-2008 Land Arts was co-sponsored by the University of New Mexico and the University of Texas at Austin where Taylor taught in the interdisciplinary design program of the Department of Art and Art History. In 2007 Taylor was invited by Incubo to bring together a group of students and professionals from Chile and the United States for a symposium in Santiago and a Land Arts exploration of the Atacama Desert. In 2008 Taylor began teaching in the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University where Land Arts continues to develop in addition to the programming at the University of New Mexico. The program now operates autonomously from both institutions. Operational funding for Land Arts of the American West is provided in part by Lannan Foundation and Andrea Nasher.
The book Land Arts of the American West documents the history and development of the program was published by the University of Texas Press in April 2009.

Lannan Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities.
The Foundation recognizes the profound and often unquantifiable value of the creative process and is willing to take risks and make substantial investments in ambitious and experimental thinking. Understanding that globalization threatens all cultures and ecosystems, the Foundation is particularly interested in projects that encourage freedom of inquiry, imagination, and expression.
The Foundation supports this mission by making grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of contemporary visual art,literatureindigenous communities, and cultural freedom.
The Foundation also gives awards and fellowships to writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and in the area of cultural freedom. Awards recognize individuals for extraordinary work in their fields. Fellowships provide time and support to continue with or to complete specific projects and also recognize those who show potential for future outstanding work.

Land artEarthworks (coined by Robert Smithson), or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked. It is also an art form that is created in nature, using natural materials such as soilrock (bed rock, boulders, stones), organic media (logs, branches, leaves), and water with introduced materials such as concretemetalasphalt, or mineralpigments. Sculptures are not placed in the landscape, rather, the landscape is the means of their creation. Often earth movingequipment is involved. The works frequently exist in the open, located well away from civilization, left to change and erode under natural conditions. Many of the first works, created in the deserts of Nevada, New Mexico, Utah or Arizona were ephemeral in nature and now only exist as video recordings or photographic documents. They also pioneered a category of art called site-specific sculpture, designed for a particular outdoor location.

The Emu (play /ˈmjuː/ or /ˈm/;[5] Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia. The Emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest, and arid areas.[6]
The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. They have long thin necks and legs. Emus can travel great distances at a fast, economical trot and, if necessary, can sprint at 70 km/h (43 mph) for some distance at a time.[7] Their long legs allow them to take strides of up to 275 centimetres (9.02 ft)[6] They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without food. Emus ingest stones, glass shards and bits of metal to grind food in the digestive system. They drink infrequently, but take in copious fluids when the opportunity arises. Emus will sit in water and are also able to swim. They are curious birds who are known to follow and watch other animals and humans. Emus do not sleep continuously at night but in several short stints sitting down.
Emus use their strongly clawed feet as a defence mechanism. Their legs are among the strongest of any animal, allowing them to rip metal wire fences. They are endowed with good eyesight and hearing, which allows them to detect predators in the vicinity. The plumage varies regionally, matching the surrounding environment and improving its camouflage. The feather structure prevents heat from flowing into the skin, permitting Emus to be active during the midday heat. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and thermoregulate effectively. Males and females are hard to distinguish visually, but can be differentiated by the types of loud sounds they emit by manipulating an inflatable neck sac. Emus breed in May and June and are not monogamous; fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several batches of eggs in one season. The animals put on weight before the breeding season, and the male does most of the incubation, losing significant weight during this time as he does not eat. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain with their family until the next breeding season half a year later. Emus can live between 10 and 20 years in the wild and are predated by dingos, eagles and hawks. They can jump and kick to avoid dingos, but against eagles and hawks, they can only run and swerve.
Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time.
This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. treesflowersgrasses, and other plants). In North America a plant is often deemed native if it was present before colonization.
Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings.
Research has found that insects depend on native plants.
An ecosystem consists of interactions of plants, animals, and microorganisms with their physical (e.g., soil conditions and processes) and climatic conditions.
Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. This could be a case where a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasional wildfires, to release their seedsor to provide a fertile environment where their seedlings can become established.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Awe and Wonder: Ancient Junipers in the Badlands

This ancient juniper in the Cejita Blanca badlands near Cuba, New Mexico is estimated to be about 1200 years old.

Awe and wonder is the most potent way to describe our experience in the San Juan Basin Badlands. As I discussed in my last blogpost it was the cutting of ancient junipers that I read about in the Rio Grande Sierran magazine that made me want to go to this very special place to see these trees. Who would think that such ancient trees would be found in such an arid moonscape? As I discussed in my previous post there is a push to make these badlands into an ERMA or one of the BLM's Extensive Recreation Management Areas. Please let the BLM know you support this. You can contact the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club (Tom Gorman 505-438-3932 or or the New Mexico Rio Puerco office of the BLM 505-761-8700. Already the measures they have taken with rangers patrolling the areas and signage is halting the cutting of these ancient junipers. With climate change we may never see trees like this at this elevation again if they are not preserved.

Not only were the twisted ancient trees amazing but the otherworldy landscape we found them in was awe inspiring. According to Mike Richie, journalist, photographer and scientist who took us there this is not the most colorfully magnificent of the badlands but it certainly had a beauty that I found transfixing. It also inspired me to want to know more about what geologic forces formed these ancient lands.

The formations are full of iron and other minerals.

The strange round reddish rocks are called iron concretions and no one knows exactly what formed them.

These strange red rocks were sprinkled around the landscape. Apparently no one knows exactly how they were formed and in my fantasy mind they could have been the remains of dinosaur excrement. The mystery of these ancient landscapes is part of their allure. The petrified wood that is here tells scientists that this once was a rainforest which has grown more and more arid over time because of nature's changes and now our human contribution.

The juniper trees live on sand dunes which they anchor, as well as possibly deriving and retaining more moisture from them in order to survive.
They struggle with the growing heat in our climate. We are now two zones hotter and all the climate zone maps are being revised to take that into account. But I love the twisted shapes they have taken to adapt and can't wait to paint these trees. I was ecstatic wandering around among them and gathering reference for my paintings.

Who would think ancient trees would live in such a landscape?

To see some of Mike Richie's photographs of the badlands and get more information about the badlands and his expeditions to them go to

concretion is a hard, compact mass of sedimentary rock formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between the sediment grains. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word 'concretion' is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the host stratum.
There is an important distinction to draw between concretions and nodules. Concretions are formed from mineral precipitation around some kind of nucleus while a nodule is a replacement body.
Descriptions dating from the 18th century attest to the fact that concretions have long been regarded as geological curiosities. Because of the variety of unusual shapes, sizes and compositions, concretions have been interpreted to be dinosaur eggs, animal and plant fossils (called pseudofossils), extraterrestrial debris or human artifacts.
Click on the link and read more of the article below for those of you who are fascinated by geology and the forces that shaped the land of the Colorado Plateau.
Sunrise illuminates Colorado Plateau’s canyon country. 
In the early morning light, cliffs radiate a rich red glow, and 
a sculptured panorama of sandstone is revealed in a rich 
palette of crimson, vermilion, orange, salmon, peach, pink, 
gold, yellow, and white.  Nearby are black, spherical rock 
marbles (iron concretions) collecting in small depressions, 
like puddles of ball bearings.   These natural spherical balls 
have been called  various names such as iron nodules, iron 
sandstone balls, or moki marbles.  However, we use the 
name “iron concretion” to describe both the composition 
(iron oxide that is the dark mineral which cements the sand- 
stone grains) and the formed shape (concretion).  
What paints the sandstone such rich colors?  Why is red 
a dominant color?  Where do the black marbles come from? 
How did the black marbles form?  Is there a relationship 
between sandstone colors and the marbles?  This booklet 
explores the answers to these questions and poses other 
questions yet unanswered. exhibits a wide range of colors from 
shades of red to stark white. 
In a privately owned area near Moab (southeastern 
Utah), the Navajo Sandstone is a pale orange, 
unbleached color.  Only 10 miles (15 km) to the 
northwest of this picture, the upper portion of the 
Navajo Sandstone formation is bleached white.

badlands (also badland) is a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. It can resemble malpaís, a terrain of volcanic rock. Canyonsravinesgullieshoodoos and other such geological forms are common in badlands. They are often difficult to navigate by foot. Badlands often have a spectacular color display that alternates from dark black/blue coal stria to bright clays to red scoria.

I'm not sure if this is the species of juniper we saw? Any tree experts reading this?
Juniperus occidentalis (Western Juniper and Sierra Juniper) is a shrub or tree native to the western United States, growing in mountains at altitudes of 800-3,000 m (rarely down to 100 m).
The Juniperus occidentalis shoots are of moderate thickness among junipers, 1-1.6 mm diameter. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale-like, 1–2 mm long (to 5 mm on lead shoots) and 1-1.5 mm broad. The juvenile leaves (on young seedlings only) are needle-like, 5–10 mm long. The cones are berry-like, 5–10 mm in diameter, blue-brown with a whitish waxy bloom, and contain one to three seeds; they are mature in about 18 months. The male cones are 2–4 mm long, and shed their pollen in early spring.
The cones are an important food for several birds, including American RobinPhainopepla and Cedar Waxwing; these digest the fleshy cone scales and disperse the seeds in their droppings. The plants often bear galls caused by the Juniper Tip MidgeOligotrophus betheli (Bibionomorpha: Cecidomyiidae); these are violet-purple fading to brown, 1–2 cm diameter, with dense modified spreading scale-leaves 6–10 mm long and 2–3 mm broad at the base.