Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque
March 2 – 28, 2019
All of the five installation artists in Harwood Art Center’s Future Perfect wrote their artist’s statements, appropriately, in the future perfect tense. This formation encourages thinking that is forward-reaching, idealistic, and reflective at the same time: “I will have been” or “we will have known.” What things will they have accomplished as an artist or as a person at that unnamed point in the future? How will we, as a species, have moved forward or stood still? There is implicit hope in these sentences, unabashed blue-sky world-building that goes on between one artist and a blank white wall.
The five murals that compose the exhibition jump off of each artist’s hopes and fears for that future perfect world. Lynnette Haozous has worked part of her statement into her mural itself: “I will have peace when my future children have clean water, food, land + air.” Haozous’s mural reflects her Chiricahua Apache, Diné, and Taos Pueblo heritage, featuring black-and-white patterns reminiscent of traditional Diné pottery. Her forward-casting hope for Indigenous rights—with the right to healthy and protected land that those entail—is displayed as an Indigenous woman standing against a stylized foreground of rolling landscape, the sun shining down on her, a jug of water balanced on her head.
Madeline MacKenzie’s mural is more about the artist’s personal future. In MacKenzie’s swirling blue and orange mural of snarling foxes and grasping arms, she imagines a future where she can learn to rest and be content. “I will learn to stop chasing, learn that it can never be caught,” she says in her artist’s statement. Contentment is a lesson that’s so difficult to learn— and maybe a position only possible from the unique future perfect perspective, a perspective of looking backward from a point in the future, able to tally up the satisfying accumulations of the years. MacKenzie’s hope is that she can teach herself this lesson by counting up all that she already has. Maybe the brambles and biting jaws of her mural will one day open into a clearing, a lacuna in time where she can compassionately see the inner strength and wealth that have always sustained her.
In Jeremy Salazar’s mural, we see a woman staring out from the wall with an assertive plea: “Can you feel my heart racing” is sketched in stiff letters beside her. There are so many reasons for a heart to race, both positive and negative; Salazar asks us to consider them all. “As men, we will have clarity when we look in the mirror and take accountability for our patriarchy. You will learn self-love when you have self reflection,” the artist writes, adding layers of gendered meaning to his subject’s direct gaze. Perhaps Salazar looks in the mirror and reflects on the times he has made hearts race. And perhaps there is a future where more men do the same, men who are able to see real agency and subjecthood in the women they invariably affect.
The route we take to get to these idealized futures is important, of course, but sketching their outlines is a crucial step as well. These futures, whether they be inspired by Star Trek or by the Green New Deal, need to first be imagined before they can be built. And what is the work of artists if not to imagine these perfect futures?