Artist Molly Pesata on her beloved Jicarilla Apache heritage

Photo by Colton Pesata-Monarco

Molly Pesata is a fourth-generation basket-weaver. At least, this is what she can say for certain, based on her own memories.

“I learned the art of basketry mainly watching my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother,” she recalls. “I’m not sure who my great-grandmother learned from. Probably from her mother. But as far as I know, I’m fourth-generation.”

As the saying goes, her ancestors have woven baskets from plant fibers since time immemorial.

Like the matriarchs who came before her, Pesata is a citizen of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. She lives and works in Dulce, N.M., …


A painter, a photographer, and an invitation to meditate

Top left: Alice Webb’s “Balance Beam” (oil and silver leaf on canvas), photo courtesy of the artist. Photos of “Aimless Wandering” exhibit by Karie Luidens

Imagine viewing a photo of trees on your computer.

Now imagine actually finding your way to a riverbank and meandering among the cottonwoods, breathing the scent of damp earth and noticing the sun’s warmth on your skin as it filters through fresh leaves.

There’s no comparison, right?

That same contrast exists in the world of art: A screen’s worth of pixels cannot replicate the experience of actually moving through a gallery, where canvas stretches like skin and light glints off paint and gold leaf.

At Bernalillo County’s Open Space Visitor Center, you can experience it all. Outside, open-air trails wind…


Artist Adri De La Cruz on grief and the creative process

Adri De La Cruz taught themself to engrave bones collected in the deserts around Albuquerque. Photos by Paloma Sanchez (left, bottom right) and Jesse Heidenfeld (top right)

“If you grew up here, you’ve seen a dead thing, you know?”

The question comes from Adri De La Cruz, an artist from the high-and-dry land of New Mexico.

“You’re hiking with your family, and there’s just — a dead thing,” they continue. “It’s really not uncommon when you’re out in the desert.”

Death is indeed everywhere in the desert. It’s in the cracked ground and parched air, the rattle of bones and prick of cactus needles.

De La Cruz wants us to face this death — and, in the process, face life. After all, life is everywhere in the…


Photographer Kevin Beltran on the backroads of northern New Mexico

Photo courtesy of Kevin Beltran

New Mexico is famously photogenic — or at least, parts of it are. Tourists flock to the golden adobe of Taos Pueblo. Cameras click at fiery sunsets over mesas. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta touts itself as the most photographed event in the world.

There’s more to this place than sunsets and balloons, though. One young photographer has a keen eye for documenting what others might miss.

Kevin Beltran isn’t just a native New Mexican, he’s Native to the Pueblo of Zuni. After growing up “on the rez,” he studied and worked in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. …


How Keshet helps teens create moments of liberation while incarcerated

Photos of “Movement for Mercy” by Pat Berrett, courtesy of Keshet. Sign photo via Google Maps. Fence photo by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash

A dozen teenagers laugh as they practice their dance — one of them stumbles, throwing off the choreography. Time to rehearse from the top.

Their dance teacher laughs with them before calling for attention. With only a few weeks left in the semester, their final performance is almost here. Five, six, seven, eight!

At a glance, this might look like any other dance rehearsal at any other school. But this isn’t a school you can glance inside: It’s a state-run youth lockdown facility. The teens wear matching rec clothes, and their class is monitored by corrections staff and security cameras.


ABQ Artwalk celebrates three years of community engagement

A row of masked “artwalkers” enjoy an outdoor concert in downtown Albuquerque during an Artwalk event, summer 2020. Photo by Frank D, courtesy of ABQ Artwalk via the Ruppe’s “Neighborhood” project.

ABQ Artwalk is on a mission. The organization wants to get you — yes, you — to experience local art.

Its scrappy team of just a few staffers has come up with a simple but challenging formula. They recruit a neighborhood’s worth of shops, bars, and restaurants to participate as venues, then connect them with a region’s worth of painters, sculptors, and jewelers. Once they’ve booked the food trucks and hired the street performers, it all goes on the map.

The result: An epic night of food, music, and fun to which the whole city is invited.

Some arts organizations…


Discover a world of creativity at Albuquerque’s newest artist collective

As the Art and Soul Collective puts the final touches on their new space in Cottonwood Mall, cofounders Kyle O. Street (center) and Shennon Morgan (right) have put out the call: ARTISTS WANTED! Skull painting by Ariel Rivera. Photos via Instagram / Courtesy of the Art and Soul Collective

The countdown had begun. At 9:05 a.m., the man in the silver spacesuit would press the button.

He had protective lenses in place — not over his eyes, but on his DSLR camera. On his head, he wore only his custom helmet.

As the moon gradually eclipsed the sun, he held his breath, hoping to capture the moment before a blaze of solar light flared out again. The shutter clicked in the nick of time. He got the photo.

This spaceman-photographer, who goes by Voyager or Kyle O. Street, had practiced photography since his days apprenticing at a headshot studio…


From sea to sand to Zoom with historian Nicolasa Chávez

A photo collage featuring an adobe church surrounded by photos of Semana Santa rites in Sevilla, Spain / Photos courtesy of Sean Quillen on Unsplash and Getty Images via Canva

Spring is here in New Mexico, bringing with it the annual rites of Holy Week — in Spanish, Semana Santa.

From Jerusalem to Rome, Madrid to Manila, as Christianity spread around the globe over the centuries, diverse and far-flung communities began marking the anniversary of Christ’s passion and crucifixion. Along the way, they’ve infused its observation with regional traditions like parades, song, feasting, and prayer.

Enter Nicolasa Chávez, a scholar of cultures with an emphasis on Spanish and Spanish-influenced customs. …


The artist talks gray areas and purple paint

Artist Noé Barnett wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “CREATE” in lettering as colorful as his floral paintings. Photos courtesy of the artist

Noé Barnett had his whole life planned out: Graduate from the Albuquerque Police Academy. Serve as an armed officer of the law. Buy a house. At a predetermined time, leave the local force to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Military Police.

“When I got fired — ” Barnett pauses to laugh softly. “It’s funny now, but in the moment, that was probably the lowest point of my life. I remember just going home and crying.”

After finishing high school in Albuquerque, where he was born and raised, Barnett signed up as a Police Service Aid (PSA). For…


The journey to find his political voice — and the confidence to use it

From portraits to murals to jewelry, Joeseph Arnoux has worked in many forms over the years. Photos courtesy of the artist

Joeseph Arnoux’s artwork wasn’t always political. His earliest drawings mostly expressed his personal state of mind as a teen.

“I had this idea of pop culture art from my friends in Michigan,” Arnoux says of his formative years. “I was the only Native. I didn’t grow up around Natives or around my tribe, so I was very displaced from that tribal identity.”

That changed when he took it upon himself to investigate his heritage as an adult, deepening his sense of history and politics.

“It slowly adapted into this more Native and activist art,” he says. “I find it hard…

Karie Luidens

I’m an Albuquerque-based writer of criticism, commentary, current events, and semi-connected musings. She/her. karieluidens.com

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