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March 13, 2021
On average, we will take about a billion breaths in our life, yet no one knows which breath will be our last. In a climate in which breathing and respiratory health have been at the forefront of global news, the exhibition “Breath Taking” is scheduled to open at the New Mexico Museum of Art (MOA) on March 13 and will be on view through Sept. 5, 2021.
More than 45 drawings, installations, photographs, sculptures, and videos by 18 contemporary artists will explore the nature of the universal act of breathing by measuring it, scanning it, enclosing it, evoking it, and reminding us of our vulnerability. “Breathing is an essential biological function that many of us have taken for granted, that is until 2020,” said Mark White, MOA Executive Director. “With the advent of COVID-19 and George Floyd’s tragic words ‘I can’t breathe,’ the act of respiration has become increasingly complicated in American culture. ‘Breath Taking’ not only takes into account recent events but also the philosophical and spiritual ramifications of breath.”
That mixture of the existential with the immediate makes this an interesting exhibition for our time, inviting viewers to ponder breath as they encounter work about the current pandemic, racial and social justice issues, and the human relationship with the environment, among other topics. Some pieces in the exhibition focus on the repetitive act of breathing, while others suggest the volume or movement of a breath. Several artists emphasize the reciprocal exchange of oxygen and carbon between animals and plants in their work.
“Breath is a formidable subject for a visual artist,” said MOA Curator of Photography Katherine Ware, who conceived the exhibition. “It is a fundamental but essentially invisible part of our lives. One of the pleasures of the show is seeing how each artist chose to bring breath to our attention.”
Featured in the exhibition are works by Stuart Allen, Linda Alterwitz, Dan Estabrook, Brian Finke, David S. Goodsell, Cynthia Greig, Alison Keogh, Sant Khalsa, Marietta Patricia Leis, Shaun Leonardo, Tony Mobley, Jill O’Bryan, Peter Olson, Kim Richardson, Frank Rodick, Meridel Rubenstein, Don J. Usner, and Will Wilson.