Learning from the Land
The exhibition Learning from the Land features a selection of work by artist Matt Garcia that express a post-medium, post-studio, interdisciplinary ecological practice embedded in an indigenous cosmology. A Chicano artist from the American Southwest, Garcia's work reflects and honors an ongoing continuum of indigenous cultural practice and perspectives of his homeland. As a Chicano working at the intersection of art and environment, he offers a unique perspective often excluded from the field of environmental art. The exhibit features Elders of the Land, a series of juniper tree portraits photographed in the high deserts of southern Colorado. The one-seed juniper tree is indigenous to much of the US southwestern region stretching from southern Colorado to northern Mexico. It is one of the most resilient plants in our desert regions. Junipers can live up to 2000 years and many don’t reach peak seed production until the age of 200. Garcia has been inspired by his wanderings of the desert lands. Pondering the time that has passed these humble trees, he is reminded of his ancestors who lived in this very land for millennia. The Juniper featured in this exhibition began growing at a time when the ecological systems and the indigenous peoples of the Americas were free. They survived the Spanish occupation of the land. They lived through a time of war when the United States seized the land from Mexico. They survived the ecological disaster settler colonization has brought to the land and the people of the Americas. Today, as the Juniper overlook their homeland and people in turmoil, the Juniper lives on - strong yet humble. Juniper are the Elders of the Land. They remain to guide us and teach us. Their presence is a marker of our story. The exhibit also features a selection of work that illustrates the artistic process of Desert ArtLAB's site-specific ecological installation in the high desert of Southern, CO, through the use of archival materials, botanical samples and words of our elders. Garcia is the founder of Desert ArtLAB - an interdisciplinary collaborative reconceptualizing desert and dryland ecologies not as post-apocalyptic growth of wasteland, but as an ecological opportunity. The collaborative's work gives voice and identifies complex political and social dilemmas that reveal themselves in our constructed environments through projects that activate public space, promote ecological restoration, indigenous foodways, and a new understanding of living in dryland environments. The collaborative is transforming a plot of blighted land into a thriving dryland ecosystem that also serves as an edible indigenous landscape. Informed by social sculpture, the collaborative believes artists have the ability to altruistically transform and shape their environments and society. Regrowing indigenous kincentric ecologies in community space allows for the revitalization of ecological practice and a reimagining of an indigenous dryland cosmology and aesthetic. Matthew Garcia is currently an assistant professor of Art and Design at Dominican University of California located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Garcia's work has been presented nationally and internationally at venues such as: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France), Museum of Contemporary Native Art - MoCNA (Santa Fe,NM), Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara ,The International Symposium on Electronic Art (2012,2015),Balance-Unbalance Festival (Noose, Australia) and HASTAC (Lima, Peru) - www.mdgarcia.com. Garcia is a 2016 Creative Capital awardee in Emerging Fields.