Fine art

Explore 'Roots ~ Raices' at NeoRio 2018

Thought provoking art installations planned for rim of Río Grande Gorge

By Tempo staff
Posted 9/13/18

NeoRio offers thought-provoking art installations right on the rim of the Río Grande gorge, along with a farm-to-table feast, poetry and music. "The outdoor contemporary art and …

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Fine art

Explore 'Roots ~ Raices' at NeoRio 2018

Thought provoking art installations planned for rim of Río Grande Gorge


NeoRio offers thought-provoking art installations right on the rim of the Río Grande gorge, along with a farm-to-table feast, poetry and music. "The outdoor contemporary art and community event offers the opportunity to discover the sublime Wild Rivers area of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, or, to experience it in a whole new way. Now in its 10th year, this annual event offers a unique experience every year," writes organizer Claire Coté in a press release.

NeoRio 2018 will take place at Montoso Campground Saturday (Sept. 15), 4-9 p.m., at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area north of Questa.

Each year, NeoRio features a different theme. This year it is "Roots ~ Raices," which "digs deeper" into the botanical strand of recent years: "Pollination" in 2016 and "Seeds ~ Semillas" in 2017. "Roots are mysterious, complex, often unseen, but also innate and essential," Coté writes. "This year's theme is a little different because it intentionally encourages deep, metaphorical exploration and interpretation, invoking concepts of cultural heritage and place as well as other manifestations to be discovered throughout the afternoon and evening at NeoRio."

The branching form of roots is a natural growth pattern as well as a form of distribution and collection following paths of least resistance, Coté explains. These root-like forms show up underground but also in watersheds, circulatory systems and family heritage diagrams. Part of this theme is a call to "dig-in," to discover and explore our own roots, and plant new ones and to learn, understand and celebrate our own heritage, local cultural and agricultural practices as well as the native plants and ecosystems in Northern New Mexico and beyond.

Art installations and activities at NeoRio 2018 will begin to "unpack" this very full, poignant and broad-reaching theme in both literal and metaphorical ways. The event will host featured artists, Scott Sutton, Kacie Smith and University of New Mexico students of the immersive Land Arts of the American West program. NeoRio contributing artists are Nicholette Codding and Martha Shepp of Land, Experience and Art of Place (LEAP).

Featured artist Scott Sutton (, originally from Oregon, moved to New Mexico where he received a masters of landscape architecture degree at UNM. He teaches artists how to forage for mineral pigments to make paints, and he has a passion for creating that extends beyond the walls of his art studio through a combination of interests: land art, public art and ecological design. He describes his NeoRio project, "Weight of Water," like this:

"It brings to light the importance of roots in the creation of place while questioning our impacts … on the watersheds we live within," Sutton said in a prepared statement. "The installation will display rooted cuttings of Salix amygdaloides (Peachleaf Willow) collected from the North Willamette watershed in Oregon and will be transported to the Upper Río Grande watershed. The rooted cuttings help make visible the delicate relationship we have to the soil, water, air and sun within the watersheds that sustain us."

Featured artist and educator Kacie Smith ( is originally from California and now lives in Albuquerque. She completed her bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking at Washington University in St. Louis. She also completed programs in Waldorf education and biodynamic farming, and her fine arts masters degree in art and ecology at UNM.

With an affinity for textiles, she engages with a wide variety of mediums to create sculptural installations and interactive projects that explore the personal, historical and natural elements of place and craft, according to Coté. For NeoRio, Smith will set up "All That You Can Show Me," a temporary outfitters station inviting viewers to borrow from her collection of handmade backpack kits to use on-site.

"Inspired by various outdoor adventures, each backpack is designed with a specific activity in mind, such as foraging, journaling, etc.," she states. "With a background in outdoor education and early childhood education, I create objects that engage with place, play, ritual and the body. The kits can be used solo or in groups at Wild Rivers."

Land Arts of the American West ( is a semesterlong, full-time, studio art program at UNM, committed to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in the field of art and ecology. 2018 LAAW artists include Sarah Canelas, Brionna Garcia, Erin Gould, Xena Gurule, Jeanette Hart-Mann, Ryan Henel, Kyle Holub, Nicholas Jacobsen, Blaise Koller, Francisco Letelier, Rowan Roberts and Jessica Zeglin. These individuals will convene at Wild Rivers before the event and camp on-site as they intimately explore the Río Grande Gorge.

"We will work both individually and collaboratively across creative disciplines of performance, time-based media, sculpture and experimental art to explore a 'rooted' sense of place to create finished works to share with the public," LAAW Director Jeanette Hart-Mann states.

Contributing artist Martha Shepp is fairly new to New Mexico. Her studies ranged from graphic design and dance to filmmaking and music.

Her works across a range of media reveal her abiding interest in the intersection of community development, self-concept and aesthetics," Coté states. About her NeoRio project, "The DNA of Root Words," Shepp said in a statement, "Roots, root words and human-created sounds fascinate me. My project is an interactive typography installation, using natural materials, print and sound."

Contributing artist Nicholette Codding has a multidisciplinary practice based in Portland, Oregon. In addition to fine art photography, Codding practices and teaches sustainable agriculture and living. She describes her NeoRio installation "Shifting Paradigm" as an illumination of that which is seen and unseen. Using reflective surfaces, she seeks to expose what is above and below the surface.

During the afternoon, guests are invited to tour and interact with the art installations and projects and explore family-friendly, hands-on activities offered by collaborators. The roots-inspired late afternoon poetry and music salon will begin at 5 p.m., featuring youth poetry and entertainment by local musicians Kate Mann and Mark Dudrow.

A locally sourced Northern New Mexico fall feast from the Questa Farmers Market growers, cooks and bakers is planned. At dusk, NeoRio will feature artists giving short, informative and illustrated talks about their on-site artworks, along with a brief visual tour of past works, all made possible with portable solar power provided by PPC Solar.

The 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and Trails Acts also will be celebrated at NeoRio along with National Public Lands Day.

NeoRio is organized by LEAP in partnership with the new Questa Creative Council, the Bureau of Land Management's Taos Field Office and others.

Claire Coté, LEAP director, said, "At NeoRio we hope people experience a kind of alchemy in the 'confluence of art and environments.' NeoRio is a recipe of sorts, combining the ingredients of art, music, poetry, lands, rivers, cultures, community, food and an interesting annual theme to create a special experience for our guests and all involved."

NeoRio is made possible by individual donations, local business and media sponsorships as well as generous grant support. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks also to grants from MAE Foundation, Taos County, Questa Economic Development Fund, Chevron Questa Mine Grants for Good, and sponsorships from PPC Solar, Zia Event Design, North Star Toys, The Taos News, Beyond Taos, Río Grande Ace Hardware, Questa Farmers Market, Cid's Market, Common Fire, Cerro Vista Farmand others.


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