Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Justine Rivas at The Valley

Installation view: Justine Rivas, How to Carry a Cloud.
Photo courtesy of The Valley


Justine Rivas: How to Carry a Cloud

Up through August 7, 2021

The Valley

1800 Camino del La Placita, Unit D

Taos, NM 87571

From the Press Release:

The Valley is pleased to present its first solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based painter Justine Rivas. The exhibition, titled How to carry a cloud, includes a series of new paintings that explore hidden sources of water in the desert landscape.

Rivas uses clouds and creosote bushes as metaphors for the interconnected sources of life-giving moisture in arid regions. Both reflect water stored in the land and the air, deceptively close and yet inaccessible. Cloud forms appear across several works, oscillating between pattern and landscape. As above, so below- creosote in its various forms appear as a familiar and familial plant speaking to the artists’ connection to the desert landscape, her family has lived in the borderlands since time immemorial.

Creosote dominates the landscape of Arizona, Los Angeles, Texas and New Mexico. The creosote plant is incredibly resilient to drought, retaining water from rain above and the aquifer below. The root systems of mature creosote plants are simply so efficient at absorbing water that fallen seeds nearby cannot accumulate enough water to germinate, effectively creating dead zones around every plant. The Spanish word “creosote” translates to governes; and while a harsh and hardy plant that takes from the land, it also returns the favor in the form of medicinal uses first discovered by indigenous peoples of the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan regions. People local to these areas associate the smell of creosote with desert rain.

The largest work in the exhibition, Chaparral, creosotes’ common name, is a dreamy desert landscape spanning over sixteen feet in length. Large fluffy clouds loom above dry mountains and creosote forms in various stages of bloom dance across the canvas.

These works are an attempt at a reparative dialogue with the land and complicated histories both personal and collective. 

About the artist:

Justine Rivas (b. 1991) grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. Her recent work is at the intersection of observational painting and studio knowledge. She is interested in understanding relationships to and through connections to the desert land. Justine is a current MFA candidate at UCLA.

*All photos © the blog author except where indicated.

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