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Breaking Barriers with Border Crossing

Border Crossing: Jami Porter Lara on view February 17–May 14, 2017

"Border Crossing presents recent work by Albuquerque-based artist Jami Porter Lara (b. 1969), who hand-builds and pit-fires clay sculptures resembling a ubiquitous icon of modern life—the plastic bottle. Finding both ancient pottery shards and recently discarded plastic bottles along the U.S.–Mexico border inspired Porter Lara to reconsider the bottle as a 'contemporary artifact.'" (National Museum of Women in the Arts)

During my visit to The National Museum of Women and the Arts, I was blown away. How could I not have known about this treasure just off Metro Center? As I wandered from room to room on the first floor, I admired the diverse art ranging from sculptures to paintings to even pop up books. The eclectic exhibition mixed the modern with the traditional; additionally, I was impressed by the strong representation of work by women of color.

The exhibition entitled Border Crossing displayed pottery and sculpture work by New Mexico resident Jami Porter Lara. The pottery mesmerized me with its pitch-black finish and stark simplicity; each vessel a water bottle refurbished into different manifestations. However, even more compelling than the appearance was the concept behind the body of work. Porter Lara called her exhibit an exploration of “human’s inclination to set borders, not only between countries, but also between nature and artifice, art and rubbish, tradition and invention.” In saying this, the artist seemed to be making a compelling statement about the tendency of people to categorize, label, and divide objects (and people) into rigid boxes. She chose the iconic symbol of waste, the water bottle, to “humanize the vessel” and display the human ability to be creative rather than destructive. By using former trash as her medium, she blurred the borders between “art and rubbish”, creating a unique gray area.

One idea Porter Lara grappled with that particularly struck me was the concept of “making things in a world of too many things.” Through recycling trash into unique art and producing something beautiful without greatly depleting material resources, Porter Lara addressed this predicament in a sustainable manner. Perhaps it is due to my environmental science course, but recently I have become increasingly aware of human apathy in regards to the environment. At the trajectory, we are moving, natural resources are being expended at a higher rate than ever before. Art endeavors may not be the primary cause of resource overconsumption, but mediums like sculpture do often pull from resources like clay, rock, and water, all of which come in limited quantities. Additionally, any reduction of waste can aid in the environmental cause and push toward renewability. Border Crossing smartly applied eco-friendly practices to an unorthodox community, pleading the question: what small changes can we as individuals make in support of causes we are passionate about?

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