Photos by Marina Galasso (Art Education K-12 ‘23) and Laurel Thompson (Psychology and Studio Art, '23)
What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus. Some believe it’s God’s way of bringing us to our senses. Others that it’s a Chinese conspiracy to take over the world.
Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
- Arundhati Roy from The Pandemic is a Portal, Financial Time, April 2020
Arundhati Roy’s observation of this grand opportunity to stop; to just stop and take time to reevaluate what is important in this moment has been my guiding mantra since reading it 18 months ago. How can the pandemic and the many examples of mutual aid occurring simultaneously all over the world influence and transform the way we relate to one another? What can the pandemic, the climate emergency, wars, refugees from wars and climate influenced natural disasters help us see before it’s too late? This show is an attempt to understand one another so we can have conversations to create actions that will lead to the betterment of the planet and humanity.
The pandemic has reached every corner of the world and has left no one unaffected. jetsonorama, inspired by the words of Arundhati Roy, sees this as an opportunity for change. In collaboration with Esther Belin and Gretchen Groenke, this show connects and opens a dialogue to take action to better the planet and humanity.
The exhibition consists of Gretchen’s love songs to the land and a call to action to heal from societal diseases and the harm they cause. Esther’s sculpture acts as a portal depicting the Navajo creation story and written letters from the perspective of the Navajo people affected by the pandemic. jetsonorama’s iconic portraits, typically seen throughout exterior buildings of the Navajo Nation, take on a new form inside the gallery space.
Chip Thomas (jetsonorama)
Chip Thomas, aka jetsonorama, is a photographer, public artist and physician who has been working in a small clinic on the Navajo Nation since 1987. There he coordinates the Painted Desert Project which he describes as a community building dialog which manifests as a constellation of murals painted by artists from the Navajo Nation as well as from around the world.
Thomas’ own public artwork consists of enlarged black and white photographs pasted onto structures along the roadside primarily on the Navajo Nation. His motivation is to reflect back to the community the love they’ve shared with him over the years.
Thomas was a 2018 Kindle Project gift recipient and in 2020 he was one of a handful of artists chosen by the UN to recognize the 75th anniversary of the UN’s founding. Selected artists are to generate work that contributes to the envisioning and shaping of a more resilient and sustainable future. The UN writes “…Right now we are facing the greatest health challenge to the human race in a century. COVID-19 has revealed that a virus can affect not only our physical health but also our ability to cope with the psychological impact in its wake.” Thomas will spend 2021 working collaboratively to craft an artful, community based mental health wellness response to the pandemic.
Esther G. Belin
“My expression is a liberation functioning as a contrived reality boxed into Indian.”
Esther G. Belin is an urban Indian, born at an Indian Health Service hospital in Gallup, New Mexico and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. When recently asked how she became a writer, she explained, “writing was a coping mechanism.” Belin has been using writing to cope with the everyday microaggressions of racialized trauma, oppression and general ignorance about Indian tribes and people in the United States. She has two poetry collections, From the Belly of My Beauty, and Of Cartography, both published by the University of Arizona Press. She and three others edited an anthology of Navajo Literature, The Diné Reader.
While Belin is primarily a writer, she frequently collaborates with others on interdisciplinary projects. Collaborations between Belin and Chip Thomas are rooted from Navajoland, Diné bikeyáh, and manifest from conversations about art, cultural landscape and racial healing.
Belin is a faculty mentor in the Institute of American Indian Arts Low-Rez MFA program. She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and lives on the Colorado side of the 4 corners region.
Gretchen Groenke (she/her/hers) is a mother, a poet, a birthworker, a gardener and a student of the plants and the natural world. She was raised on an orchard in the vast agricultural landscape of Washington State where she learned to love rich soil, fresh food, and all people. It was also in this place that she came to know injustice and exploitation of land and people as inherent to a globalized food system. These formative experiences set her life’s path to understanding the current state of the world, and to dedicate herself to cultivating systems that nurture equity, dignity, health, and life itself, from the ground up.
Gretchen is a Co-Creator at 4th World Farm, a Co-Founder of Four Corners Food Coalition, Founder of White on White racial justice education and organizing for white identifying folx, and a Co-Director at Mancos FoodShare. She serves on the statewide Steering Committee for Raise Colorado and is on the Equity and Justice Committee for the Colorado Health Foundation. You can follow her writing (sometimes) on social media @flamesinherveins
This exhibition and events are generously sponsored by the Ballantine Visiting Artist Fund.