Last year, a team from The University of New Mexico created a project titled a Library, a Classroom, and the Worldfor the prestigious Venice Biennale art exhibition Personal Structures in Venice, Italy. The team, headed by co-curator, professor of Art & Ecology and director of the UNM Center for Environmental Arts & Humanities Subhankar Banerjee. This week, an exhibition inspired by part of the Venice project will go on display on the UNM campus.
As part of the award-winning Venice project, historian of environmental visual culture Finis Dunaway, who lives in Canada, collaborated with Banerjee to create Beyond Fortress Conservation: Postcards of Biodiversity and Justice. The postcards and the wall text were designed by New Mexico graphics designer David Mendez, who passed away in 2022. Fortress conservation is a conservation model based on the belief that biodiversity protection is best achieved by creating protected areas where ecosystems can function in isolation from human disturbance.
The postcards then led to a journal article of the same title that Banerjee co-authored with Dunaway and published in the journal Environmental History.
All projects are seeds that lead to other projects, Banerjee said.
With the Venice postcard project and the article in Environmental History for inspiration, 18 undergraduate UNM students have created an extraordinary suite of 33 postcards. The exhibition will open with a reception Wednesday, May 3, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Fine Arts and Design Library on the fourth floor of George Pearl Hall in the School of Architecture and Planning on Central Avenue at Cornell. Refreshments will be served. Everyone is invited, including UNM students, faculty, and staff, as well as the community. The show runs through May 31.
Featured artists are Mikayla Archuleta, Krista Ballantyne, Coralis Carrion, Erin Cassidy, Leila Chapa, Paloma Chapa, Sisham Devkota, Karina Diponio, Damien Domingo Barela, Jaden Fischer, Melanie Freeman, Peggy Keilman, Finn Langwell, Valerie Martinez, Ariel Montano, Albert Perez, Jasmine Toledo, and Mai Vo.
The name of the exhibition invites audience participation: Postcards Are for Active Participation, not for passive viewing.
The cards collectively cover a wide range of visual arts medium, including drawing, painting, digital illustration, photography, and collage, Banerjee said. The cards also include thoughtful writing informed by research and/or personal experiences, a plethora of designs, and a wide range of subjects in biodiversity and ecologies.
Banerjee emphasized, “These postcards are not for passive viewing but instead are for active participation." Attendees are urged to visit the Fine Arts Library before May 31, pick up and read the postcards, and then write or draw on one and put it back on the postcard holder where they found it. All the written postcards will be periodically archived and displayed in the exhibit area.
“After two years of the pandemic, with this modest-yet-deeply meaningful exhibition, we will celebrate our undergraduate students and their creative and scholarly works. This exhibition is also a pilot of a larger initiative we will be launching later this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act,” Banerjee noted. “All in all, this will be a wonderful and meaningful exhibit. I'm so happy and grateful to be able to celebrate the works by this incredible group of 18 undergraduate students.”
Banerjee also credited Stephanie Beene, associate professor and librarian, Fine Arts & Design Library; Aaron Blecha, operations manager at the library; Robyn Wagoner, program coordinator of the UNM Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities, including for designing the invitation card; Danette Petersen in the Department of Art for her skillful support of accounting; and suggestions and advice from Arif Khan, director, and Mary Statzer, curator at the UNM Art Museum.