Virga: Beneath the Sierra sin Agua

Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, AZ, 2022

Materials: Peeled ponderosa pine logs, ponderosa pine log with pine pitch, charred ponderosa pine trees, cottonwood leaf, Gambel oak trunk, concrete pipes, bandsaw blades, ponderosa pine pollen, laser cut MDF, mummified spade-footed toad, cobalt powder pigment, steel

He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak ... and the ore I have digged ... hath fixed my property in them. John Locke, Second Treatise, Chapter 16. Property, 1689

Using the words of the English philopher John Locke, I write: in the beginning all the world was Arizona, and more so than that is now. Parsing the words written in Genesis, Locke argues: "God hath given the world to men ... to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience." To his mind unclaimed, unowned, unused, untilled, and unimproved and unexploited land was wasted Land. Using the New World and its potentiality as an example, Locke characterizes it as "the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America."

And thus, "America" was born. And eventually Arizona.

After installing my exhibit, Virga: The Hunt for Water, in the fall of 2013, I immediately began to prepare Beneath the Sierra sin Agua. The world continued to be turned upside down by unprecedented catastrophic wildfires and flooding, but little did we know that there would also be the rise of an authoritarian figure in this country, a global pandemic, and a war in Eastern Europe.

How fast things happen and change.

Beneath the Sierra sin Agua is my attempt to make sense of these things as I work alone in my studio. The last course I taught at Northern Arizona University in 2011 was a place-based, site-specific installation class titled Ecological & Cultural Genocide in Arizona. This exhibition builds on what I share with my students that semester. 

Each installation reflects my collaboration with this place called Arizona. Together they explore its history, cultures and landscapes, allowing me to deepen my understanding of where I live, its destiny and how it is still being manifested.