Breath. Prior to 2020, most people didn’t give the complex, involuntary act of breathing much thought. Times have changed. So, too, has the lens through which both audiences and artists view Breath Taking, a new exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Encounter Culture host Charlotte Jusinski, the editor of El Palacio magazine, welcomes Kate Ware, her co-host for this inaugural episode and curator of photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and artist Cynthia Greig to the conversation.
Cynthia, Kate, and Charlotte discuss Cynthia’s video and photographic experiments, works that explore the shimmering intimacy and fragility of breathing in a world grappling with a respiratory virus. Afterward, Kate shares a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when a curator finalizes an entire exhibition only to pivot that original concept in the wake of a pandemic and the social justice impact resonating from the phrase “I can’t breathe.”
Breath Taking is an inadvertently timely exhibit featuring contemporary artists and the inventive ways they’ve discovered to express the fundamental and elusive act of breathing. In many ways, every breath now carries with it an ominous undertone. Breath is front-page news, leading stories from politics to protests. Through it all, breathing remains “this human act that unifies us,” says Kate. We all do it––and none of us know when we’ll breathe our last.
“I know everything’s sort of transformed the interpretation and significance of breath to a different level since the virus is transmitted through the exhalations that we have and share,” says Cynthia. The 54 photos that make up her contribution to the exhibition reveal the individuality of this life-giving force. Each image, captured on a flatbed scanner, is an imprint of the person releasing it, as unique as a snowflake. This breathscape envelopes visitors in an ethereal cosmos, forcing them to consider breath differently than they might have two years ago.
While the original plan for Breath Taking was conceived before the concept of breath exploded in the zeitgeist, Kate moved swiftly to capture the immediacy of this moment. The result is a cohesive and well-done exhibit, offering audiences a space to contemplate and to process all that’s happened in the last 16 months.
Breath Taking is on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art through September 5th, 2021. Plan your visit or take a virtual tour at nmartmuseum.org. To learn more about Cynthia Gregg and her work, visit CynthiaGreig.com.
Encounter Culture, a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.
Hosted by Charlotte Jusinski
Technical Director: Edwin R. Ruiz at Mondo Machine
Recording Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe
Executive Producer: Daniel Zillmann
Theme Music: D’Santi Nava