Cara Romero’s Spirits of the Desert X

By Sandra Hale Schulman
- News From Indian Country -

Desert X is an anti-museum show, it takes the art and artists out into the wilds of the Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles and lets them use the vast landscape as their gallery. Held every two years, Desert X 19 opened in February and lasts until April.

The most striking art installation is that of Cara Romero and her new photo-graphic series, Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert, which responds to the ancestral lands of the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Serrano, and Mojave people. These images feature four young time-traveling visitors from Chemehuevi who have come to the ancestral lands of their sister tribes in the Coachella Valley.

In Romero’s vision, these young, running, posing, feather adorned figures maintain their rightful place in the land, it’s stories and how to connect past events to the present.

Palm Springs is known both for its Modernism style and the bedrock lands of the Cahuillas that predate colonization. Romero makes visible an oral tradition, using modern billboards to tell ancient story threads.

Jackrabbit Cottontail the Spirit of the Desert, Photo by Lance Gerber

Born in Inglewood, CA in 1977, Cara was raised on the Chemehuevi Valley Indian reservation along the California shoreline of Havasu Lake, and later lived in Houston, TX, and Santa Fe, NM. She trained in film, digital, fine art, journalism, editorial portraiture and commercial photography, she shows at both the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Indian Art Market. She has won several awards including ribbons at both major markets as well as the “Visions for the Future “award from the Native American Rights Fund. Her work is represented by the Robert Nichol’s Gallery of Santa Fe.

Lance Gerber Billboard

Cara now lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico, married to Cochiti potter Diego Romero. She was an undergraduate at the University of Houston, and pursued a degree in cultural anthropology. After realizing that photography was a more contemporary medium than anthropology, she shifted to art.

“I came from poverty, and having an aesthetic medium, like photography, which can be very expensive to make, felt frivolous,” she says has said of the switch. She photographed natives in water, floating and performing dances in a series called Water Memory that brought her acclaim. Besides her work as a photographer, Romero directs the Indigeneity Program at Bioneers, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe dedicated to issues of climate change.

 “My greater intention,” Romero says, “is to create a critical visibility for modern Natives, to get away from that one-story narrative, and to dig into our multiple identities. Our stories are entrenched in our ancestry and traditional ways of knowing, but how they manifest today, that’s what’s important to me.”

Winka by Cara Romero

Some of her awards:

• 2017 Santa Fe Indian Market Best of Class (Paintings, Drawings, Graphics and Photography), Best of Division (Photography), First Place (Digital Photography), Best of Division (Computer-generated Graphics), First Place (Digitally altered primary sources and printed)[13]

• 2017 Institute of American Indian Arts Distinguished Alumni Award

• 2017 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market Judge’s Award (Karen Kramer)

On The Net:
www.cararomerophotography.com


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