SITE Santa Fe’s international biennial returns with a refreshed vision that’ll take a lot of us back to our roots. SITElines: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas has committed to linked exhibitions over the next six years that explore the Western Hemisphere’s creative, physical and cultural wealth. The new biennial’s direction allows artists to explore the vast Americas to reveal the richness of a place steeped in both tradition and modernity.
The art immersion further explores cultural identity in terms of territory, landscape and trade. Among the international artists invited to show their work are Santa Fe residents Ric Lum and Jamison Banks.
While both Santa Feans speak about what home means through their work, the ideas of exile, loss of homeland and cultural integration define Banks' Retour des Cendres Vol. 1.
Culture and ancestry are "the foundation" for inspiration, and "there's no seam" that divides the two, says Banks, so his Cherokee/Seneca-Cayuga background is a familiar influence. Banks led a "very integrated" childhood in Arkansas City, Kansas: He spent plenty of time in town, but his family respected Native traditions and regularly attended reservation events and ceremonies. This split perspective helped him consider the effects of displacement caused by the Louisiana Purchase, Napoleon's exile and how cultures blend or separate in close proximity.
His current work also contains aspects of his Midwest origins and his family's upward mobility through an unexpected avenue. Baseball acts as a tool of integration in America, says Banks, whose grandfather played semi-pro ball. "And in baseball you 'steal home' to win," he notes, a sentiment that echoes throughout other areas of US popular culture and history.
"I look at what disturbs me or what I don't agree with, and I try to understand it by becoming it or somehow dismantling it, maybe reconstructing it in a different paradigm," he says. For SITElines' first installment, dubbed Unsettled Landscapes, Banks in part presents the ironic success his grandfather was able to achieve thanks to a game invented by the very people who oppressed his culture.
But like his grandfather's story, Banks' project is not without hope. He says that despite the guilt and shame associated with exile, it can become "positive and constructive." Recognition and acceptance are the first steps "to triumph over it," he says.
The landscapes of home and adversity also sit at the center of Ric Lum's work, but this cook and former environmental executive looks at how the waters of the Rio Grande connect us all in this arid region. "This is my home," says Lum, who has done similar projects in the past but on a smaller scale. "And we all have something to contribute."
The Rio Feast Project encompasses several real-time aspects as Lum follows the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico and cooks a series of locally sourced community meals for people he meets along the way.
Throughout his journey, Lum plans to embellish a hand-drawn map of the rio with details of the trip: people met, books read, meals served. He'll also post videos and pictures to Tumblr and write a journal and cookbook as he floats, drives and bikes his way down the river.
To help him experience "the essence of what life is" around the Rio Grande—food, people and the river itself—and open a conversation about the Rio Grande and the problems it faces, Lum aims to help farmers he encounters to harvest vegetables or raise chickens he'll then serve, so he can contribute to each meal on multiple levels.
"What matters to me is actually going out and doing something," Lum says. "I'm not sure where the art part of this is. That's not for me to say." After all, he says, the human connections will be "more important than the objects I might make."
On how it feels to show in SITElines, Lum and Banks agree: "It's jaw-dropping," says the latter. "I've seen SITE develop over the years and have been inspired" by the approach to art that's not typically seen in local galleries.
"I appreciate the context of the show," Lum says. "I'm humbled."
In addition to Banks and Lum, SITElines includes 43 other artists and artist-collaborations from all reaches of the New World, with projects as diverse as their creators and origins. The new focus seen in the project may appear broad, but it still resonates deeply with a landscape we can all recognize: the continents we call home.
SITE Santa Fe
2-7 pm Saturday, July 19. Free
1606 Paseo de Peralta,