Press Releases

"Rituals of the Land and Spirit" Samuel Dorsky Museum exhibits the work of Photographer Miguel Gandert


NEW PALTZ -- Over a twenty-year period, Miguel Gandert created captivating photographs that examine the rituals – sacred and secular – practiced by mestizo peoples of the Upper Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York has mounted an exhibition of 25 of Miguel Gandert’s photographs for a special exhibition titled Rituales de la Tierra y del Espíritu – Rituals of the Land and Spirit as a component to The Big Read – a month of community programs related to Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima. Rituals of the Land and Spirit will be on view October 30 – December 9, 2007 with a Day of the Dead opening reception on Friday, November 2 from 6-8 p.m.

Tres Generaciones Cantando, Ranchos de Taos
Miguel Gandert, 1997

Gandert’s black and white photographs of the landscape and people of northern New Mexico embody four centuries of cultural and personal conflict. The region, having a history of turbulence and war with nomadic raiders, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, maintained its identity under the most difficult conditions. The efforts of New Mexico’s conquerors failed to completely erase the history of the “Pueblo Indians,” although their influence is clearly revealed in the customs in Indo-Hispano culture and captured in the photographs of Gandert.

Gandert documents the connections between the cultural tension and the ritual. Through the representation of dance, music, characters and costumes, Gandert’s photographs commemorate the traditional customs of Indo-Hispanic people combined with the influence of other cultures. The mestiza Virgin of Guadalupe, the Matachines conquest drama dance – complete with monsters and bull, Moorish elements of fringed face masks, costume and the theme of Christian conversion, are some of the scenes Gandert captures.

Dr. Enrique R. Lamadrid, professor at the University of New Mexico and specialist in Southwest Hispanic culture comments...Until recently, mestizo cultures were deemed unworthy of serious study because of notions of ‘cultural contamination.’ Now comes the realization that to understand this way of life is to gain new insight into the future culture of the planet.”

Miguel Gandert was born in Española in 1956, a descendant of Spanish settlers of Mora, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. Raised in Santa Fe, he began photographing the people around him in 1968, earning an MA in photography at the University of New Mexico. An internationally-acclaimed photographer and professor at the University of New Mexico, Gandert has exhibited his work in museums and galleries throughout the world including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

Miguel Gandert’s monograph, Nuevo México Profundo: Rituals of an Indo-Hispano Homeland, published by the University of New Mexico Press, accompanies the exhibition and will be available for sale at the museum. It is a stunning volume containing 130 black and white photographs depicting the rituals practiced by Indian and Hispanic people of the Upper Rio Grande Valley, from the Cuidad Juárez/El Paso, Texas region, to Taos, New Mexico. Contributors to the monograph are Dr. Enrique R. Lamadrid, professor at University of New Mexico, a folklorist and specialist in Southwest Hispanic culture; Ramón A. Gutiérrez, professor of Ethnic Studies and History at the University of California, San Diego and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity; Lucy R. Lippard, writer and cultural critic; and Chris Wilson, J.B. Jackson Professor of Cultural Landscape Studies at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture.

Gandert’s exhibition is organized in conjunction with The Big Read, a community-wide project and an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Arts Midwest. The project highlights the fascinating book, Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, a 1972 novel set in 1940s New Mexico. Events include a month of programs relating to the book and the vibrant New Mexican Chicano culture it describes.

On Saturday, November 3 from 2-3:00 p.m. at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, Miguel Gandert and Dr. Enrique Lamadrid will discuss Gandert’s photography and the book, Bless me, Ultima. Gandert and Lamadrid are colleagues at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque) and have been doing fieldwork, book projects and exhibitions since 1985.

About the Museum
The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is dedicated to collecting, researching, interpreting, and exhibiting works of art from diverse cultures. The permanent collection spans a period of almost 4,000 years. Areas of specialization include 20th century paintings and works on paper, Asian and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts, metals and photographs. SDMA has a special commitment to collecting and exhibiting important works of art created by artists who have lived and worked in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. The Museum is a major cultural resource in the Hudson Valley serving a broad-based constituency from both on and beyond the New Paltz campus.

Museum Information

Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p. m.

Saturday and Sunday, 1-5:00 p.m.

Admission is free

(845) 257-3844

If you are a person with a disability who will require special accommodations please contact Amy Pickering at 845.257.3844
no later than one week before the event.