Photo by Kate Russell

Photo by Kate Russell

Maria Performances

In the spring of 2014, I was invited to be an Artist in Residence at the Denver Art Museum. While working in the museum, I crafted post-apocalyptic indigenous warrior accoutrements out of leather, metal, found objects, and ceramic components. I was simultaneously enrolled at the Northern New Mexico College Automotive Science program working toward a certificate in Auto Body. At the shop in Espanola, I worked to finish the body work and black-on-black painting on a 1985 El Camino that I named “Maria” after the famed potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo.

With the assistance of the DAM, my community and family, “Maria” was transported to Denver, and on the first Friday event at the museum, I drove the car up the street and to the entrance of the museum flanked by a squad of post-apocalyptic Indigenous warriors, people of indigenous and queer identities. During the procession, a heartbeat was bumped through a 1,000 watt speaker system emitted from the cab of the El Camino. I exited the car and led the procession up into the museum to observe the work that I had exhibited through the “Sovereign; Independent Voices” exhibition.

Since the initial performance, I have used the car and adornments in several more similar events.

The intention of this performance series is to challenge the stereotyping of indigenous identities, deconstruct gender roles, transform the relationship of objectification of women in car culture, and consider the re-application of relational aesthetics.

Photography by Kate Russell


Altar at SITE Santa Fe


For the SITE Santa Fe 20/20 Anniversary Exhibition series, I was invited to collaborate with an artist. Through the conversation of collaboration, we determined that we wanted to create some sort of “sacred space” without exploiting cultures or religions.

After my collaborator was incapacitated because of a health issue, I continued with the project, applying the idea of the ‘Altar’ with the altering aspect of relating with another.

I created two abstract figures out of clay, metal, and found objects, both over nine feet tall. I set them up facing each other in a large space, so the visitor became a kind of voyeur of that moment of connection.

Image courtesy Pomona College Museum of Art

Image courtesy Pomona College Museum of Art

Rose B. Simpson; Ground. Pomona College Museum of Art

In 2016, I was selected to curate a show from the permanent collection of indigenous artifacts in the Pomona College Museum basement, then create work in response to what I had chosen to exhibit.

I felt a connection to the stones in the basement and chose to exhibit utilitarian objects in order to honor the working lives of the people who had created the tools. I made two large post-apocalyptic giants from mixed media (leather, metal, clay), one standing witness and the other, adorned with 14’ wings, reaching deep into the floor. I also constructed seven large faces that were hung on one long wall above seven grinding stones from the collection.

The intention of the installation was to remind that indigenous peoples have already survived an apocalypse. Here we stand, trying to figure out how to proceed. If the ancestors or spirits still connected to the stones were to speak to us, they would instruct us to go deeper into the awareness of connection, intuition, and relationship, rather than fly above it. The answer is in the grind, the work, the empowering process of nurturing self, culture, and future.