Contemporary Contemporary Museums

Art Making in Full Nature

Plein Air : Susanna Battin, Esteban Cabeza de Baca, iris yirei hu, KB Jones, Hillary Mushkin, Sterling Wells, Paula Wilson

Plein air is an art term for taking your paints and canvas out into nature and making art in the presence of your inspiration. The artists in this show each have was of using this definition to qualify their work.

Hillary Mushkin went with a group of artists and scientists to one of the U.S.-Mexico border survey camps used in the 19th century to establish the countries border after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Today, the area – 17 miles from the border –  is surveilled by drones with target sensing equipment, heat and motion sensors and infrared cameras. Mushkin project is to create new surveys of the border and displayed an official photographic copy of the border with an accordion book of paintings made ‘en plein aire’.

The pages are from the document: Boundary between the Unites States and Mexico, as surveyed and marked by the International Boundary Commission, under the convention of July 29th, 1882.

Susanna Battin calls the work shown here Leave No Trace. Made from 2021-2022, Battin created her own paint swatches from US Bureau of Land Management publication in order to name them “Sudan Brown” or “Juniper Green,” and make videos starring these colors. In a heap in the gallery are uniforms sewn from vintage linen or cotton and dyed some of these colors.

The last image is a still from the video, showing the artist painting a panel in the color. The plein air painted panel obviously sticks out of the natural environment, but at least the BLM was trying to identify colors that would be less noticeable in nature in case something needed to be built there : like a toilet at a campground. Are their choices successful? Or should there be no need for a color swatch instruction manual because the BLM doesn’t allow any building?

Should President Obama have sent some color police into Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the building that the Bundy folks – land lease fee protestors / or squatters – took over and held at gun-point in Oregon in January of 2016?

Plein Air opened May 13, 2002 and continues at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson through February 5, 2023. The exhibition was curated by Aurora Tang.

Pictures from the Exhibition


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