Civilization clashes with the outdoors in a mural showing a semi-nude woman and an animal-headed human joined in nature. Artist KB Jones completed the work almost entirely in charcoal, and finished it with varnish last August at Biocultura (1505 Agua Fria St.). Jones had less than a week to complete the mural before she hopped back on a plane to her home in New York. She based the painting on photographs of a mock wedding she arranged at Otero Mesa. We questioned Jones about her mural, which analyzes traditional marriage and the pressure one feels to complete the ritual by a certain age.
How did your idea for the mural begin, and how did the mural end up at Biocultura?
I was in my early 30s and had never been married, but I had been a bridesmaid in nine weddings. I was interested in wedding ceremonies after having observed so many. I staged the mock wedding on a camping trip at sunset [in 2012]. I was traveling with a group of about 12 people for several weeks, as part of the UNM Land Arts program. The wedding was actually a pretty slapdash photoshoot. At the end of that semester, we put together a group show at The Center for Contemporary Arts, and I turned the photos into a 12-by-25-foot wall drawing. Years later, [Biocultura Director] Andrea Polli remembered my drawing. She invited me to recreate the mural at Biocultura.
Can you talk about how being born in Africa and raised in America influences your work?
I was actually born in Texas, but my parents and I moved to Kenya when I was 9 months old. I was baptized in Nairobi. Africa is a massive continent with so many different cultures and traditions. I lived in Kenya and Senegal. As a foreigner, I was on the outside, looking in; observing is an important trait for any artist. I remember Africans being friendly and welcoming. They often had very little, but were extremely generous. I grew so much from my experiences there, but don't feel like I gave much back to Africa. America exports its consumer culture, and weddings here are sadly often dominated by that too. I think that artists right now need to figure out new ways of doing things, be that through ceremonies, new relationships to each other or to the planet.
Can you talk about the importance of the mock wedding being set at Otero Mesa?
Staging a fake wedding was a way to study the cultural shaping of ritual, but more importantly, it was a way to study a place. Otero Mesa is magical. It's sort of ironic that it's near the border but the landscape never ends. There is a true openness and freedom to push the edges of what is real and what is possible. The event and my artwork could not have existed without this unique and beautiful wilderness. The final product expressed genuine feelings of joy and freedom which did not come from the "marriage" of two people, but from the experience of living and working in this rare natural environment.