Desert Passage 2004-2009

Desert Passage’? is a project featuring the work of three outstanding artists focusing on the issues of land, water, and culture specific to the arid land of the high desert of New Mexico. These artists, Gerco de Ruijter (the Netherlands), Jeroen van Westen (the Netherlands) and Anne Ausloos (Belgium) all have exhibited extensively in Europe and beyond.

This exhibition has developed after years of work, many trips to New Mexico and an artist-published book also entitled Desert Passage’? that documents the work of each artist and their guide Ton Haak. The goal was to investigate the enormous difference as well as the surprising similarities between the Dutch (wet) lowlands and the New Mexico (dry) high desert. The contrasts between the Dutch polder system and the Hispanic acequia system became subject for each of these artists. The Dutch practically drown in water and have to create structures to manage and release its abundance, while the New Mexicans are plagued by drought and have created efficient irrigation systems to lead the little water there is to the places where it can be best used. Both the Dutch and New Mexicans have created democratic organizations for their water management. In both places, nature itself plays a dominant role and often disturbs these human regulating measures. In the desert, the scarce water suddenly forces a path through a dry arroyo, causes it to overflow and deliver flash floods. A little rainfall can create new and unique pathways that remain visible for scores of years.

The three artists experiment with land and water each in their own way. While doing so, they create strong images, beautiful sounds, thoughtful observations and fascinating installations. It is also hard work: De Ruijter spends long days flying his kite in the unstable winds of the high desert and sometimes has to fight hard to prevent his camera from diving and crashing into a canyon wall; he hikes mile after mile and climbs steep canyon walls to retrieve his camera and kite. Ausloos also hikes for hours on end to collect greenish, red, copper, white and mustard-colored dirt with which to create colored tracks in the dull grey badlands, or fill vessels with miniatures of the desert. Van Westens camera and microphone capture the subtle life of the dry lands. (Ton Haak)

Desert Passage Exhibition
October 9, 2009 January 24, 2010
Harwood Museum of Art
Taos New Mexico USA

Anne Ausloos
Gerco de Ruijter
Jeroen van Westen