In Search of Domínguez and Escalante: Photographing the 1776
Pasó por aquí…passed by here. Retracing the extraordinary Fray Domínguez and Escalante expedition of 1776 in the southwest.
Frederick Hammersley Foundation...
New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education
Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation
...and Viewers Like You.
THIS TIME, ON COLORES!
PASÃ“ POR AQUÃ...
PASSED BY HERE.
...RETRACING THE EXTRAORDINARY FRAY DOMÃNGUEZ
AND ESCALANTE EXPEDITION OF 1776 IN THE SOUTHWEST.
MARIO MOORE'S THOUGHT-PROVOKING EXHIBIT,
"RECOVERY" REFLECTS ON HOW AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN
REST, RELAX, AND RECOVER IN OUR SOCIETY.
EXUDING JOY, BEAUTY, AND SPONTANEITY NEW YORK FLORIST
LEWIS MILLER COLORS CITY STREETS WITH THRILLING
USING ILLUSION, ROBERT SHEFMAN DELVES INTO THE WORLD OF
IT'S ALL AHEAD ON COLORES!
FOLLOWING FOOTSTEPS FROM OVER 200 YEARS AGO.
>>Greg MacGregor: This expedition is an exciting read.
The diaries are well written.
The Spanish are amazing writers in those years.
This is true about this journals.
The journals are filled with descriptions of
people, places, it's like a story.
You don't know if it's going to end successfully or not.
It has a beginning.
It has an end.
It has adventure.
It's got danger.
They're starving, they're lost, their instruments don't work.
>>Greg MacGregor: The photographs in this
project are driven by the text, always.
I would read the diaries and find out - where are they?
And what amazed them?
The picture of the San Juan river was a special
photograph because they were lost in the mountains
between Dulce and that river.
When they bust out onto that river, it's a sign of delight.
They kind of know where they are.
It's times like that that I also stop and look at this river.
And it's easier for me to imagine the story.
Hence you make pictures in those kinds of places, special places.
>>Greg MacGregor: At the Grand Mesa Encounter
with the 80 Utes and all their teepees and
wives and kids, a significant thing happens with them.
They finally have a guide.
Up to this point there's nobody guiding them anywhere.
This expedition was the first exploration of the
Northern Territories of the Spanish empire.
Expedition failed in more ways than it succeeded,
for instance, they were supposed to discover why
the Indians at Utah Lake had beards.
The myth was it was a lost tribe of Spanish soldiers,
but of course, that didn't work out.
>>Greg MacGregor: One of the primary goals
of this expedition is to Christianize the Indians
and look for future Spanish settlements.
The expedition spends two days, two precious days
talking to the natives, which they call the fish eaters.
They talk about the fish, wildlife,
the rivers that dump into it.
It has four major streams, each of them bigger than
the Rio Grande dumping into this thing.
Somewhere in the month of October they realized
they've got to make a decision whether to
continue west or not.
It was starting to snow.
Bernardo Miera, who was the cartographer and the
most senior member of the expedition, tells them
that it's only five days march to California.
He was totally wrong.
They decide to make a decision by drawing lots
and the deal is, if they decide to go west to
California, Miera is going to be the boss.
It's almost like a mutiny.
No one knows how they do the lots, but it turns out
the decision was to come back to Santa Fe.
It's a good thing they didn't because there's
like, five mountain ranges in Nevada, in the Sierra Nevada
mountains in California which are 400 miles
long full of snow at that time of the year.
We would never have heard of these guys if they had
lost that decision.
>>Greg MacGregor: The expedition is
approximately two-thirds of the way home at this point.
The obstacle in the way now is the Colorado River
and how to get across it.
It was a known river at the time.
What was not known, was the great that they had
the Grand Canyon in the middle of it.
>>Greg MacGregor: At Horseshoe Bend, they're
still looking for a crossing site.
Traveling along the cliffs, trying to get
down, up and across the river and back up the other side.
During that time, it's going to take them 12 days
to find that crossing site where they go down, can't
get across the river, cancel it.
Go back up, try it another time.
The only problem was getting the horses down
and make that work you had the chop holes in the
sandstone cliffs where they put the horse's hoofs.
Along this route they're going to carve their
initials in a wall.
Past here in the year 1776, which stands now today
as the only hard evidence of where they were at a given time.
The Spanish government wasn't able to settle any
of these wonderful areas that they discovered for
potential settlements because they didn't have any money.
They were busy fighting and joining the
Revolutionary War on the East Coast and they didn't
have enough priests to supply these missions.
>>Greg MacGregor: Part of this project is to
comment on the legacy of exploration, you know,
I'm photographing, making images of junkyards and
cities and that's part of it, is to look at the
legacy of what happened as a consequence of these
AN AFRICAN AMERICAN RECOVERY.
(elegant rock music)
I'm interested in like creating the stage
that the audience can kind of come into.
(elegant rock music)
Art to me has always been involved in my life.
I grew up around the DIA, I used to go visit the
museum when I was a kid, I would walk through the galleries.
But as far as like inspiration, that came
from my mom, Sabrina Nelson, because I would
see her do these large paintings.
Just the idea to look at a canvas that's blank or a
piece of paper and her just make something,
was always interesting to me.
The way that I begin my work is usually through
sketches and ideas.
It is usually that I have a thought and I have a process.
And I sketch out or I think about that thought
and I say what is the best way to portray this
thought or to talk about this idea?
So that can go to sculpture, that can go to drawing,
that can go to video, that can go to painting,
but the majority of the time I'm interested
in a massive narrative.
We're in the David Klein Gallery and the show is called
And the show is about considering how black men
rest and relax and take time for themselves.
What happened was I was working on a body of work
where I was thinking about myself personally and how
I move my body through the world and how the world
considers me as a black man.
And then I had brain surgery.
I had brain surgery and literally I was forced to rest.
So that made me think about things historically,
like how did historic black men that we know and
the world knows, like a Martin Luther King or a
Malcolm X or a W.E.B Du Bois, and when we look up
their names, they're always speaking really
loud, they're on the podium, they're always active.
In times of turmoil, like what we're dealing with today
as far as everything politically and socioeconomically,
how do I rest?
'cause we're kind of in a similar state and in some ways,
in some senses as far as education and other things
like that, it's worse, it's gone backwards instead of forwards.
So, but at the same time we're human.
So these men took vacations, they took time
with their family, they took naps.
So I started to think about that and the work
presents a question, because I don't have the answer.
So how do black men rest, how do they relax, and
what does that look like?
It has to do with just the history of America in that
black men and black people just in general, we're in
the process of constantly having to stay ahead just
to catch up economically.
Since we got to the country or the Americas,
we were slaves.
It was things that the country were built on the
labor that we put in.
So that is passed down as far as trying to catch up,
you have to work extremely hard.
So the idea of resting and relaxing is not a part of
the process when you're always thinking about what
do I need to do next?
Silverpoint is a technique that was used in the 16th
and 15th century.
And it's literally a piece of silver and drawing with
a piece of silver.
Most of the silverpoint drawings that have the
historical, like the larger ones that have the
historical figures in the background, it's a concept
and idea is that can a black man look relaxed and
calm and present himself in that way, but also at
the same time be powerful?
Like I'm letting the background, the historical
figures do all the work for me, while I relax.
And I think that's part of the importance and a part
of the process.
I like the amount of texture and detail that
went into the silverpoint, but there's a limited
number of values that you can reach.
So no matter what I draw, no matter how hard the
subject matter is, there's always gonna be this
softness to it and I really like that.
The other thing I really like about silverpoint is
that you can't erase.
So it's almost like drawing with a pen,
whatever you put down is permanent.
So everything that goes into that drawing,
you're gonna have to deal with it, right?
It's there to exist forever.
Another thing I like is that in dealing with silverpoint,
you're literally leaving behind silver on paper.
So you're creating something that has initial value.
And with the work that I was working on,
I'm dealing with a subject matter that people don't
see as valuable, America often sees as unvalued as
far as black men and also this idea of rest
and this idea of relaxing.
So I think that material has worked for me really
well, and thinking about these ideas and concepts.
There's one piece in particular in the show.
I read this book called Medical Apartheid, it has
to do with the experimentation on black
people from slavery to contemporary times.
And I also got this huge photography book called
Stiffs, Skulls and Skeletons.
Through that book, you can see how they experimented
and practiced on cadavers.
And most of the cadavers you will see are black or
And the way that that happened is they were like,
well, we don't really care about this community,
so we can dig up these graves and use these bodies.
So those bodies became objects,
they weren't even people anymore.
So it was like, well, the thing that just happened
to me with my brain surgery, what would that
look like back in these times?
And I wanted to show opposition to that that
shine the light on me as a person, as a human being
instead of an object, and kind of mute the light on
the figures that are above me.
The American bulldog, for me it's a literal
representation of the history of America and I
use it as a symbol for America itself.
And often you'll find the dog is sleeping or
relaxing as it's ignoring really big issues that are
happening right above it.
I include history in my work because as far as
social issues, we kind of roll around all the time
back to similar issues over and over again.
So I look at the past and I consider it,
and I'm saying well, what was happening then kinda looks like
What did they do then, what can we do now, what
can we do to change it and what does that look like?
I think there's a ton of stuff to take away from this show.
I think about a lot of different narratives that
go into one piece, but there's a lot of stuff
that I don't think about.
And I think those are the important things that
people that come and see the show that they can
pull out for themselves.
I think it's important for the people to answer.
Well these are the things that I noticed, these are
some ideas that I'm thinking about, this is a
question that I have, and I think it becomes more
participatory that the people that come and see
the show, they provide the answers.
I think hearing their perspective and hearing
their ideas about resting and what that looked like
for them was extremely important.
I think hearing my dad talk about how he's worked
since he was 16 years old and talking about his
perspective was important.
But I think the most important thing that
happened after the show was I went into the
barbershop and one of the barbers that was in there,
he told me after seeing my show he literally took a
week off of work.
And then also hearing that several men after seeing
the show were going outside and crying, which
is like they honestly never thought in this way.
So I think those were probably the most
important things that happened.
(soft lively music)
MOMENTS OF BEAUTY.
Lewis Miller: Flowers were always part of my DNA.
I come from a family of gardeners, but I went from
landscape and horticulture to the flower world and here I am.
The flower flash was something that was kind of
bopping around my brain for a while.
It didn't have a name.
It was sort of more this vague idea of how to take
flowers and fuse them in an urban city environment.
So it finally got to the point a couple years ago
where I was very satisfied with business things going
super well and kind of needing to feel creatively
energized again, but also feeling the need in my own
way to give back.
I'm clearly surrounded by flowers on a daily basis,
as are my clients, and we tend to get immune to how
beautiful they are and what an expression of joy
they are to people.
And it's really about taking that which is so
beautiful and ephemeral and kind of merging it
with the texture and the grit of our urban city
life and creating something that's very
spontaneous, very fleeting, and sort of abstract.
We spend a great deal of time, you know, really
finding locations that feel New York first.
So that combined with the season, what's looking
good and also, the flower flashes are an
accumulation of old flowers in the flower
market, stuff that's left over from the studio, and
stuff that's left over from events, so we have to
work with that as well.
These flashes happen very quickly.
We plan it to a certain extent then we just do it
and see what happens.
There's a little anxious energy, you know, it's usually dark.
A lot of times it's cold.
The flowers are for New Yorkers.
They are for the people, and I want people to take
them and interact with them.
Obviously, take a picture, but take a blossom,
take some home.
New York is New York.
All these people piled on top of each other.
To me, you know, the two biggest luxuries in the
city are nature and space, so the more that we can
have these kind of soft moments of just beauty and
joy for no other reason, even if it's for an hour
or ten minutes, its job is done.
OPENING UP TO A SECRET WORLD.
(soft piano music)
- The most important thing you can do
is invest yourself in the work and be willing
to take and use what is most appropriate,
in terms of the skill, to get your idea across.
Since I was a kid, I always loved art.
But I also liked medicine as well.
So, actually, when I was in high school, I had an
internship down at Receiving Hospital doing autopsies.
That experience gave me a different perspective on
the human body, about being us.
And eventually, that found its way into my work.
What you see in terms of my paintings and my
sculptures is no the way I was trained.
Back in the '70s, you were pretty much discouraged
from doing anything that was illusionist like I paint.
You were also discouraged from doing anything with the figure.
But I finally went in that direction and it seemed
like endless possibilities, as opposed to a dead end.
So, I went there.
I'm making an illusion, it's just a magic trick.
I wanna see where I can take and use illusion to
make metaphor, to use symbol to relate to different issues.
The inspiration can come from any place.
You take an idea and you run with it, and you
develop it 1,000 different ways and explore wherever
it will take you.
If you have the guts to go to places that were quote
It's not about starting in any specific way.
So sometimes I might see something that sparks an
idea and it goes in my sketchbook.
I might work that and develop an idea.
Then again, it might take five years before that idea,
which I see in that sketchbook over and over and over,
kinda coalesces with other things that I see.
And suddenly wow, these things go together and
they make a different thing than I wanted to say
before, but it's unique.
Ideally, what I like to do when working in series, is
take an idea and I'm exploring different things
that are relative to that.
And trying to explore as many as I can
and develop images from them.
So they're all gonna be different.
The series that I'm working on now,
which is the Secrets.
So I solicited secrets across the internet.
And people sent me personal secrets.
Everyone's secret is not unique.
In fact, I had very few unique secrets.
By using that secret, not as an illustration of what
they sent, but talking about more internal feelings,
and developing an image based on that idea.
Some of the secrets were more personal, less political.
Some were more political, less personal.
Some of the secrets were legal issues.
But it was enlightening.
The biggest secret that Americans keep right now
seems to be suffering from depression, and everything
that goes with that.
And so, because of that, it became the largest
painting that I was gonna do in the series.
And I wanted to take on that being otherworldly
and right in this world at the same time, because
that is what we do.
Depression is something you are right in this
world, yet you can't take a point of view that keeps
you in this world.
There's another painting in the show that is
someone who was in love with their best friend and
couldn't tell them.
And it was about sexuality, and about
choice, and about also the hiding.
And that internal struggle is what I tried
to get on the canvas.
And then there was a lot of people who are hiding
sexual orientation, drugs and addictions to either
food or different drugs and alcohol.
There was lots of, lots of stuff for me to explore.
Some of the people actually wrote again to
tell me how cathartic it was, that they've been
holding this secret for 45 years and never told anyone.
And that the experience of putting it down and
sending it out released them in a way.
The Carbon series started with a trip to the Middle East.
And I was most impressed by this intersection of
politics and religion and the carbon.
The carbon was a part of all the decisions.
In religion, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
Us, as human beings, we are carbon.
In the Middle East, so much of what was going on
was not just about religion, but the
religions controlling other carbon issues,
resource carbon issues, political carbon issues.
And this intersection where all of this was
coming together gave me a notion about this carbon
series and then a series of paintings called
Politics and Religion.
And the two are integrated.
So the Carbon series was drawings and everything I
did was made out of carbon, about carbon.
And the paintings were more about the political
and the religious aspects of this carbon system.
My process has always been starting from a blank sheet
When you start with a drawing that has no
direction, everything is possible.
And I'll use the drawing, and I will make hundreds
of drawings until one strikes me as making that
agenda hit as much as possible, being as direct
to what I want to say.
And then when I start painting, it's still a moving target.
And things are gonna change when I start painting.
And, either for visual reasons or for content
reasons, this is illusion.
It's not real.
It's just pixels on a page.
And if you think about the pixilation of an image,
this is how painters have always worked.
Only instead of digital pixels, it's a brush stroke.
So every brush stroke is a different color.
And how illusionist you want this work to be is
how often you change the pixels.
I'm changing the pixels as much as I can.
That experience, that illusion, is important to me.
It's not the focus, but it's how I want to get the idea across.
And so if I want to paint a hand or an arm, it'll
probably be 15 different colors.
And I will start with those and then intermix
and change those, depending on how it goes.
My paintings are not about paint,
it was about what I wanted to say.
You take an idea and you make an image.
And I've been fortunate enough to have moved enough
people that they will give me a platform, meaning shows.
Whether it's galleries or museums when you get the
work out there, people come and see the work.
I'll get letters back saying, oh, this affected
me, that affected me.
I think that's the communication factor.
That's that image transferring information
from one person to another.
You're trying to affect someone.
You could go in a closet and make all your work,
and burn the closet down.
You fulfilled only half of the issue of the arts.
The arts is communication.
Without the audience,
you have not fulfilled all the mission.
(soft piano music)
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Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:
Frederick Hammersley Foundation...
New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education
Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation
...and Viewers Like You.
(CLOSED CAPTIONING BY KNME-TV)
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