Dancing Earth founder Rulan Tangen explores liminal spaces

Rulan Tangen for Dancing Earth at Ghost Ranch. Photo by Paulo Rocha-Tavares

In the world of dance, spatial awareness is everything — a constant consciousness of one’s surroundings, one’s own body, and their relationship through movement.

No one knows this better than Rulan Tangen.

“Nice to meet you. Where are your feet on the ground right now?” she says by way of introduction on our recent call.

Tangen is the founding artistic director of Dancing Earth, a dance company “respectfully based in Ogaa Po Ogeh — occupied Tewa territory known as Santa Fe, NM and Yelamu — occupied Ohlone territory known as San Francisco, CA.

“I have my feet a little south…


Artist Zahra Marwan on painting her own story

Artist Zahra Marwan is framed by two of her watercolors. Left: “Worried to be sitting alone by the river, I saw three cranes land.” Right: “When I felt shy as a child.” Images courtesy of the artist

Zahra Marwan’s watercolor paintings are so whimsical and bittersweet, they might make you nostalgic for a place you’ve never been — unless, like her, you’ve also split your life between Kuwait and New Mexico.

Marwan calls her work “Two Desert Illustrations” in reference to the two regions she has called home. She was born on the sandy seashores of Kuwait City, but since age seven, she’s lived among the mountains and mesas around Albuquerque.

“It took me a while to understand that land in New Mexico is as important as sea is to Kuwaitis,” Marwan says. …


Albuquerque’s newest mural envisions a brighter world

Artists Votan Ik, Leah Lewis, and Saba unveiled the mural “Abya Yala: Indigenous Freeways” on May 22. Photo courtesy of NSRGNTS

Walls often serve to divide people.

For the visionaries of NSRGNTS, however, walls can also bring people together.

The art collective recently unveiled their latest mural at HomegrowNM Trading Post, on the corner of Central Avenue and Morningside Drive SE. “Abya Yala: Indigenous Freeways” depicts a single continuous landscape from south to north, united by an overarching rainbow.

“A lot of people, nowadays, when they think of borders, they think that borders are protecting us,” says Votan Ik, who founded NSRGNTS just over 20 years ago.

As he sees it, however, border enforcement fundamentally harms the land, fosters exploitation, and…


Petra Brown traces weaving’s cross-cultural threads

Petra Brown works at a floor loom during one of her weaving apprenticeships. Photo courtesy of the artist

Of all the ties that bind humanity across time and place, textiles may be one of the oldest.

“Weaving is present in most prehistoric or just historic cultures,” says Albuquerque-based textile artist Petra Brown. “Everyone came about it in their own way.”

From tending plants like flax or cotton, to herding sheep — from spinning wool to winding looms of all shapes and sizes — people around the globe have clothed themselves in natural fibers for thousands of years.

Weaving is so fundamental to many lifeways that stories trace the craft’s origins back to our creation or emergence. …


A branch of the gift economy sets up shop at the mall

Erin Garrison, co-founder of Food Is Free Albuquerque, poses outside the nonprofit’s new community space, opening May 15 at Cottonwood Mall. Photo by Karie Luidens. Plant photos by Anastasiya Romanova and Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer describes “a world full of gifts simply scattered at your feet.” That is, plants like wild strawberries freely offer themselves to anyone who seeks out their tiny red gems.

Kimmerer recognizes plants as beings who participate in a “gift economy.” Their leaves and seeds are “not meant to be sold, only to be given.”

Local plant-lover Erin Garrison shares this worldview so passionately, it’s inspired her life’s work. For seven years running, she and co-founder Trista Teeter have devoted themselves to growing their nonprofit, Food Is Free Albuquerque (FIFABQ).

FIFABQ seeks out…


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.

Karie Luidens

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store