Unsettled Landscapes: A Look Into Santa Fe’s Complex History Through Art

Santa Fe, NM

[Edit-Touran: This month, the Mumora team took advantage of all the art and culture Santa Fe, New Mexico has to offer. This article focuses on some of the exhibitions, art markets, and experiences we had.]

In the summer, Santa Fe is abuzz with tourists who are enchanted by the charm of this artistic haven in Northern New Mexico.  People come from all over the United States to enjoy the culture, arts, and beauty that Santa Fe provides, and in many ways, people come to this small city to find a type of authenticity and culture that may not exist in other states or cities across America.

In fact it may not truly exist in Santa Fe either because this city mixes ideas of the Spanish influence from the time of conquest with a fantasy of Indigenous culture while also creating a notion of the great wild west and highlighting the artistic communities that have thrived here.

In many ways Santa Fe is a place for a series of desired authenticities, some of which are real while others are invented.

This layered history is highlighted by Unsettled Landscapes, an exhibition that is being shown at the contemporary art space, SITE Santa Fe.  This exhibit begins to narrate the uncovered histories that exist in the Americas, histories based on land, trade, and politics.  With invigorating works by Kent Monkman, Blue Curry, and Antonio Vega Macotela amongst many others, the show begins to take apart piece by piece the ideas we have about the Americas and to replace some of the difficult historical and social realities.

Unsettled Landscapes 2014 – SITElines from SITE Santa Fe on Vimeo.

Miss Chief by Monkman is brilliantly ironic and intensely intellectual, which makes it a wonderful piece to interact with. Curry’s installation S.S.s. makes it evident that some histories are transformed subtly and may not change that drastically.  Macotela’s sculpture, Studies of Exhaustion III: The Mill of Blood, The Drop of Flesh is perhaps the most direct of the three with direct implications for the wealth that exists in land.

While the show itself is very thought provoking and fascinating, it also highlights some of the contradictions that exist in art, culture and everyday life in Santa Fe.  For instance, with Spanish Market at the end of July and Indian Market at the end of August, the plaza in Santa Fe becomes a center for celebrating and highlighting specific authenticities through the selling of arts and craft.

In the process it becomes evident that these authenticities melt together at times and contradict or falsify each other at other times.  And perhaps that is what makes Santa Fe such a magical place.

In subtle ways, the exhibition at SITE Santa Fe begins to expose the complex and troubled beauty inherent in the landscape that defines Santa Fe and reminds viewers that the legacy of history is still very real and relevant. 

Most importantly, it exposes the fact that we continue to live within this complex past.  So while locals and tourists alike enjoy watching the sunset over the stunning landscape of Northern New Mexico while drinking green chile infused margaritas, it’s important to recall what this land has meant and means to the different groups of people that have settled here over the centuries.  

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