The first contemporary art exhibit produced for the Bond House Museum in Española got off to a promising start last night, with many of the artists on-hand to offer insight into their photography.---

Untitled XII, as the exhibit is called, is the first one produced by the Northern New Mexico Regional Art Center for the Bond House Museum. The NNMRAC used to reside at Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos, but relocated to Española in 2010. NNMRAC now manages all the cultural sites at the Española Plaza, NNMRAC curator and museum liaison Neil Trager tells SFR. The organization has earned the backing of such hard-to-sniff-at funders as the National Endowment of the Arts and the McCune Charitable Foundation, and recently put on a workshop for area teens to learn traditional northern New Mexico crafts, like tinsmithing and wood carving.

SFR was able to buttonhole several of the artists last night and learn about their work. Below is Sherry Selavy posing with two of her pieces, both shot underwater in a swimming pool and both featuring Selavy as a model. In one called Treasure Chess, Selavy, dressed in gold lamé leggings, high heels and a cowboy hat, and wielding a lasso, faces off against a giant seahorse (digitally added into the image later).

Selavy says the seahorse represents a dark knight, with her character an opposing force attempting to vanquish it.

"I tend to morph into all the crazy scenarios," Selavy says. "My view of life is, it's something like a Cirque de Soleil [performance]."

In the other photo pictured, Selavy strikes a Lady Gaga-esque pose behind oversized sunglasses, in another underwater tableau vivant. It's not digitally enhanced—she sunk the furniture, complete with conch shell and porcelain dog, into the swimming pool. The result is Selavy's absurdist take on the intersection between Miami and Los Angeles. She says humor is a hook in most of her work.

"God knows, the world is serious enough," Selavy says. "If it's not fun, I wouldn't be doing it."

Another highlight is the work of André Ruesch (pictured below), a professor of photography and chair of arts at Santa Fe Community College. On display are some of his photographs from the series

Murder of Crows.

 (A "murder" is actually the formal name for a group of crows, along the same lines as an army of ants, or a pride of lions). Though at first glance the photos appear to digitally superimpose real crows in unexpected surroundings, Ruesch tells SFR there is no digital manipulation in these pieces. Instead, he posed and photographed fake crows originally intended to be Halloween decorations. These unlikely novelty birds found their way not only into Murder of Crows, but also Ruesch's current work, Murder of Crows, Phase II: An Evolutionary Disaster.

Ruesch's fascination with crows stems from his childhood in Switzerland, when a teacher kept one as a classroom pet. That bird mimicked human speech—crows are related to mynah birds, known for the same ability.

"It was just a magical, structured new world," Ruesch says of that memory. In the lower picture Ruesch poses with above, crows perch in the soap alcoves of a shower stall while his daughter subjects the family cat to a bath. In another piece, Ruesch brought one of his crows into a shark-diving cage, and while waiting to see a great white, snapped the incongruous bird surrounded by a school of fish.

In Ruesch's work, crows have "become metaphors or stand-ins for the journey of humanity," Ruesch says. "They have migrated into indoor spaces, houses." In Phase II, crows move into the realm of the subconscious, "a place of reckoning and dialogue, unencumbered by the physical necessity to be whole," Ruesch writes in an artist's statement. In this series, Ruesch uses the crows to address the puzzle of humans' need to "deal with our evolutionary success," which, he tells SFR, has the potential to destroy the planet. The work pictured above (top), in which a cat-child presides over a scene of apparent crow carnage, is from this series.

"We have an unparalleled, urgent need to intervene with our own success, which directly pits us against our cultural expectations. Among the responses to this paradox has been denial at all levels, including the rejection of science and evolutionary theory," Ruesch's artist statement reads.

It's an interesting observation on the day of the South Carolina primary, when politicians battle to lead a party that continues to espouse creationism, over 100 years after Darwin discovered natural selection. The choice humans have to make now, Ruesch says his recent work telegraphs, is that between "reason or demise."