Artists-in-Residence showing at Bandelier

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Art>“Three Visions of the Landscape” features photographs of a changing environment.

By Arin McKenna

Even those intimately familiar with Bandelier National Monument may find unexpected insights in “Three Visions of the Landscape,” a Pop-Up show featuring photographs from three of Bandelier’s first Artists-in-Residence.
This was Bandelier’s first year hosting an Artist-in-Residence program. David Halpern (davidhalpern.com), one of “Three Visions’” featured artists, helped to develop the program.
With 11 previous national park artist-in-residencies under his belt, Halpern was the logical choice to help launch Bandelier’s program.
“The more understanding one develops of a place overtime, the more likely it will be that one’s photography will define the character of that place,” Halpern said.
All Artists-in-Residence are volunteers. In exchange for the opportunity to spend two weeks to a month in a park, artists share a portion of what they create, usually by donating a single piece of work for educational and interpretive use.
“We get our benefits, but it’s not in terms of a salary,” Halpern said.
Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park’s Artist-in-Residence program was just getting underway when Halpern served as its first artist. Artist-in-Residence programs are open to a range of artists, including musicians, dancers and writers. Few parks offered Artist-in-Residence programs at that time. Now there are nearly 40.
Halpern served four times at Rocky Mountain, twice at Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah), Glacier National Park (Montana) and Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado) and once at Maine’s Acadia National Park. He has photographed in 50 national parks all told.
Halpern’s photographs were featured in an exhibit commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the National Park Service titled “By a Clearer Light,” which traveled to 40 locations throughout the U.S. from 1992-1998 and is now part of NPS’s permanent collection.
Halpern began his Bandelier residency in 2014, combining one-month stays at the park with commuting from his home in Santa Fe while he helped develop the artist-in-residence program.
For all three photographers, the Artist-in-Residence program’s greatest gift was the opportunity to immerse themselves completely in the experience.
“There’s no question about the fact that working as an Artists-in-Residence in the park gives you the opportunity to experience the park in a way the average visitor does not,” Halpern said. “You’re here longer, you can watch the changes in the weather, the changes in the seasons and so many other things that give you more perspective on what the park is all about.”
Another plus for Halpern is the opportunity “to create work that is your own expression of the values that are important for visitors to perceive when they come to the national parks.”
For “Three Visions,” Halpern chose images that demonstrate how changes come about in nature through forces such as fire, flood, erosion and human activities.
That theme also runs through the work of wife and husband Patricia Galagan and Philip Metcalf, who served their residencies in October. They called their project “Altered States.”
Galagan and Metcalf were two of the featured artists in “Fire Season,” which showed at the New Mexico Museum of Art earlier this year. Their images were part of a project they called “Fire Ghosts,” in which they photographed the aftermath of the 2011 Las Conchas fire.
Although they applied and served their residencies together, both artists had unique projects. Galagan called hers “Juniper Futures.”
On her website (patriciagalaganphotography.com), Galagan writes that she is “drawn to the aftermath of upheaval, be it environmental or social, momentary or spread over millennia.” “Juniper Futures” documents the impacts of climate change on Bandelier’s native juniper.
“I had a conversation here with a research ecologist who explained to me that if we have prolonged drought and rising temperature, that could be a fatal combination for many juniper trees, not just in New Mexico but wherever they grow,” Galagan said. “And that was what gave me the idea for making this series of – I think of them as portraits of juniper trees.”
For Galagan, living in the park was the highlight of her residency.
“That allowed me to get up at dawn and to capture sunsets and to go all over the place without having to drive here from my home in Santa Fe. And I think that’s the thing I appreciate most, is just that month of undivided time to focus on photography. It was a real gift,” Galagan said.
“I think it really pushed me to go beyond my limits as a photographer. In a normal situation, I might go out every day or two. But to go out every single day and just keep looking at the work at night and thinking, I want to push this a little bit more, I want to look for a certain mood or I want to try a place I had seen or I’m looking for a quality of light – I was able to pursue all those avenues.”
Galagan also appreciated the assistance of the park staff.
“The rangers are so helpful, and I really felt safe and comfortable in what they could tell me,” Galagan said. “If I were looking for a particular thing they could direct me to it. That made a big difference. I wasn’t just wandering around looking for things on my own.”
The experience helped launch Galagan in a new direction.
She photographs primarily in black and white, but for this show she toned the prints to give them the feel of daguerreotypes or old photographs. The results have inspired Galagan to pursue that avenue further.
Metcalf (philipmetcalf.com) writes that “his passion is to record and to interpret nature, both pristine and altered by man…” He photographs in black and white infrared, a technique that captures the infrared light in an image.
Metcalf focused his project on a three-mile canyon that drains into Frijoles Canyon. The experience of getting to know one place in depth stands out for him.
“When I hiked and climbed down into it, I’d see things I’d seen the day before that would be a little different because of the light or the additional clouds, lack of clouds, etc.,” Metcalf said.
“You can hike along the same place you were before and see things you didn’t see the first time around, as opposed to if you’re say, traveling in the West, and you just go to a national park or a famous landscape and you’re just there quickly for literally, sometimes, just an hour or two.
“You’re really just seeing sort of the superficial, almost glitz, you might say, the things that everybody else sees. It would be sort of like going to Yosemite and spending one afternoon. Well, Ansel Adams photographed Yosemite for decades.”
Metcalf also wanted to give visitors a different perspective on Bandelier.
“I was also trying to capture images that the everyday visitor to Bandelier would not see, because it’s definitely off the trail,” Metcalf said. “So the photographs show things that the casual visitor to Bandelier would never see.”
Metcalf plans to return to the canyon once the snow melts in the spring and continue photographing. And, like Halpern, he and Galagan are hooked. They are already talking about applying for Artist-in-Residencies in other parks.
“The experience is a very special one,” Halpern said. “The opportunity is just beyond description.”
The show runs through Jan. 3 at the visitor center theater. Visitor center hours are 9 a.m.−4:30 p.m. daily, closed Christmas and New Years Day. The park is open from dawn until dusk except during heavy snow days.