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Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

 

Landmark Acquisition: Karma Barnes' Climatic Artworks at NMSU Art Museum

New Mexico State University Art Museum 

Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA,

The New Mexico State University Art Museum (NMSU) has acquired two significant works by Karma Barnes in 2024. These pieces confront the social impacts of compounded climatic events in Bundjalung County, Northern Rivers, NSW, marking a pivotal moment in Barnes' career and signifying her recognition by a major art institution.

Courtney Uldrich, Collections Curator at NMSU Art Museum, stated, "The NMSU Art Museum is pleased to announce the acquisition of two works by interdisciplinary artist Karma Barnes. 'Compounded Caldera' (2022) and 'Raw Earth Pigment Palette of Australia' (2022) have been added to the NMSU Permanent Art Collection. Previously featured in the 2023 exhibition 'Wild Pigment Project,' curated by Tilke Elkins and displayed in the Mullennix Bridge Gallery, this acquisition marks a significant enhancement to our collection of mixed-media works. Situated in the natural environment of southern New Mexico, these works, although not from New Mexico, highlight the importance of research and preservation surrounding the natural environment and the cultural histories entwined within landscapes across the world. These distinctive artworks offer exciting opportunities for research and engagement for both NMSU students and the broader community."

"Compounded Caldera" is a profound exploration of our intertwined relationship with the earth and the environmental crises that shape our lives. In this artwork, Barnes reflects on the Latin roots of the words for human and soil, emphasizing how soil serves as the interface between our bodies and the environment. The artwork draws on the notion that soil is both the literal and metaphorical source of life, continually shaped by the dramatic shifts in environmental cycles.

Barnes meticulously sources pigments from disturbed landscapes, such as landslides and erosion banks, gathered from Bundjalung Country, NSW, Australia. These materials are transformed into a narrative of resilience and adaptation. "Compounded Caldera" captures a moment in time when compounded climatic events in Northern NSW left little room for respite. This piece serves as a testament to ongoing environmental and social challenges, illustrating how both land and human experience are continuously reshaped by these forces.

The Relative Terrains Series

The acquired artworks belong to the "Relative Terrains" series, which examines psychological responses and collective social experiences triggered by catastrophic ecological events on the East Coast of Australia. Initially intended for exhibition at the Lismore Regional Gallery, the series was relocated due to damage from the 2022 Eastern Australia Floods and was ultimately presented at Grafton Regional Gallery in late 2023.

Integration and Engagement

NMSU will integrate the entire "Relative Terrains" body of work, including hand-painted catalogues, documentation, videography, essays, and resources, into their catalogue system. This move aligns with the museum's dedication to preserving and promoting art that contributes to a broader understanding of contemporary issues. The NMSU collection is renowned for its focus on significant works by female, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented and marginalized artists, including notable pieces by Agnes Martin, Judy Chicago, and Nick Cave.

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NMSU Art Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

Compounded Caldera Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

Compounded Caldera, 2022

Raw Earth Pigments gathered on Bundjalung Country and Gold Leaf.

720 sq in 1828.8 cm sq

In Latin, the words for human and soil come from the same root as that for earth. Soil functions as an interface between the body and its environment. Soil is the source of all life, literally and metaphorically. (1) We take birth on soil, live on soil, walk on soil, die on soil and finally vanish in soil. (2) All life comes from the mother soil and returns to her. (3)

 

Compounded Caldera explores how we are formed and informed by the intersections of our internal and external experiences of dramatic shifts in environmental cycles through the geomorphic medium of pigment-rich soil. Pigments and soils are produced by natural forces over aeons, a palimpsest of Earth’s endless cycles of life and death, creation and destruction.

 

Our human experience is composed of compounded responses. The artwork draws parallels between our relationships with each other and our connection to place. Compounded Caldera is a moment in time where bush fires, droughts, floods and an ongoing pandemic have ravaged our community in Northern New South Wales, Australia with little moment to exhale a breath before the next pressing moments of concerns take centre stage. The impacts of climate change have moved from subtle shifts and perturbations towards more obvious and compounding climatic events.

 

The work is produced with collected pigments gathered from the most easterly point of the Australian continent, the caldera of the ancient volcano Wollumbin. Barnes is meticulous in her techniques for deploying materials from the land, sourcing from disturbed landscapes such as landslides, road cuts, and natural erosion banks. Pigment origins include igneous lava flows and pre-volcanic soils metamorphosised under the heat and pressure of volcanic events 26 million years ago.

 

Compounded Caldera explores how we and the land change through time and shifting elemental pressures. It draws upon the Japanese art forms of Dorodangos - hand-compressed and polished soil spheres that reflect a refinement of base materials into precious objects, and Kintsugi - mending breaks with gold pigments in order to highlight the beauty of imperfections through their renewal and repair. When the land that we live upon shifts and changes during dramatic and catastrophic events our internal landscapes also become dramatically altered. The work explores how experiences of fragmentation that may alter our external and internal terrains can be metamorphosised through creative practice that alchemizes life experience.

 

  1. & (3) Satish Kumar, Soil, Soul, Society, a new trinity for our time, Leaping Hare Press, 2013.

   (2) Bipin B Mishra et al, Soil and Human, Bihar Agricultural University, Sabour, Bhagalpur, India, 2019

form-conceptgallery 6-karma-barnes-compounded-caldera-2022.webp

Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

form-conceptgallery-karma-barnes-compounded-caldera-2022 4.jpg

Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

form-conceptgallery-karma-barnes-compounded-caldera-2022.jpg

Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

Image copyright Form and Concept

form-conceptgallery 7-karma-barnes-raw-earth-pigment-palettes-of-australia-2022.jpeg

Image copyright Form and Concept

photographer Byron Flesher.

Image credit Yaka Adamic

Image credit Yaka Adamic

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