Desert Secrets 

July 9-Dec. 13

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The title for the exhibition alludes to surreal “secrets” of the desert and very political “secrets” imposed upon the land, past and present. Seven featured artists examine this topic, displaying the beauty of the desert while confronting abuse and misuse of the land and the effects of that misuse. Said co-curator Jill Dawsey, “They all deal with the ways in which humans impact and interact with the land, specifically the desert.”

One featured artist is Trevor Paglen. Said Dawsey, “Paglen has coined the term ‘experimental geography’ to describe his practice, because he is operating at the intersection of various disciplines—from art, to geography, to journalism, to military history.” Underlying Paglen’s minimal landscapes are themes of the misuse of the desert and the probability, he believes, of conspiracy. “These photographs talk about the traces that institutions and technologies leave behind—traces that are often covered up or repressed,” said Dawsey.

Patrick Nagatani (“F-117A Stealth Fighter” is pictured) addresses the topic of nuclear testing on the New Mexico desert and the unabashed abuses of the land. “Nagatani does an enormous amount of research for his projects, almost as if he is acting as a historian or anthropologist,” said Dawsey. Both artists—and other artists with similar themes throughout the exhibition—use these topics and question the necessity of these abuses and the resulting slow destruction of the ecosystem. The viewer might contemplate the possibility of a more harmonious, symbiotic relationship between human progression and preservation of nature.

Desert Secrets @ Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Dr., 801-581-7332, July 9-Dec. 13. UMFA.Utah.edu

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Ehren Clark

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