The Blessings of the Mystery examines themes of environmental activism, encounters between history and memory, Indigenous rights, and the formation and dissemination of knowledge. The exhibition articulates the complicated and layered histories, connections, and tensions present in West Texas through film, sculpture, installation, collage, and drawing.
At its center is The Teaching of the Hands , a single-channel film that recounts the region’s complex histories of colonization, migration, and ecological precarity from the perspective of Juan Mancias, Chairman of Esto'k Gna / Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Observational landscape views, archival footage, ancient imagery, and environmental wounds caused by infrastructural development are punctuated by re-enactments of gestures of colonial occupation. Wielding ownership over the storyline, Mancias brings forth the perspective of indigenous people and asserts how the cosmological value of tribal epistemologies is based on a profound relationship to the environment and knowledge of the elements. The film powerfully denounces the desecration of the land and the continuous struggle of the indigenous people against ongoing forms of erasure and exploitation.
The exhibition also features site-responsive installation incorporating both historical and contemporary surveying tools and artifacts used to create parcels of land. The floating objects that comprise Measuring the Immeasurable (2020) refer to the region’s history of land speculation and the rapid privatization of land that displaced people, animals, and reshaped the landscape.
Alongside original artworks are a selection of objects culled from special collections at The University of Texas at Austin. Original watercolors produced in the 1930s by artists and amateur archaeologists Forrest and Lula Kirkland, document the ancient rock art of the Lower Pecos, captured before many of these paints were destroyed by flooding, erosion, or human interaction.
Lead support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and VIA Art Fund.
Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation; and Kevin Sherman.
Generous support is provided by The City of Marfa and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Exhibitions at Ballroom are supported by The Brown Foundation, Inc.; Fairfax Dorn & Marc Glimcher; Virginia Lebermann & Family; Lebermann Foundation; Ballroom Marfa’s Board of Trustees, International Surf Club, and Ballroom members.
In-kind support provided by Anonymous and Sandra Harper, Eliza, Sophia & Hamilton Fish.
Special thanks to Douglas Adair; Arlene ‘Pinky’ Acosta; Perry Alexander; Glenn Aquino; Craig Baldwin; Vicki Lynn Barge; Sally Beauvais; Brenda Bentley; Megan Blackburn; Tiffany Bradley; Pat Brijalba; Gabriela Carballo; Oni Cardona; PSO Castro; Carolina Catano; Benjy Cox; Alan Crowe; Kerry Doyle; Gretel Enck; David Fenster; Will Floyd; Eddie Garcia; Lori Chenault Glover & Mark Glover; Sandra Harper, Eliza, Sophia & Hamilton Fish; Dennis & Maryann Harter; Mike & Jesse Hillger; Westin Huffman; Ranger Jude; Jose Krapp; Travis J. Laduc; Jessica Lee; Sergeant Luise Martinez; the Mancias Family; Elena Morlock; Janice Moss; Virgie Pallarez; Elise Pepple; A. Michael Powell; Veronica Roberts; Vicky & Jerod Roberts; Dona Roman; Carolyn Rose; the Shurley Family; Lindsay Smith; Lori Kaye Simmons; Aimée Spana; Karen Steelman; Mackenzie Stevens; Zach Vanderbosch; and Calletana Vargas.
And to our friends at the A. Michael Powell Herbarium, Sul Ross State University; Astronomical Photographic Plate Collection, Harvard College Observatory; The Blackwell School Alliance; La Calera Chapel Foundation; Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas; Cave Without a Name; International Boundary and Water Commission, Amistad Dam; Marfa Public Radio; The University of Texas McDonald Observatory; National Butterfly Center; The Paisano Hotel; Permian Basin Petroleum Museum; Rattlers and Reptiles; Shumla Archeological Research and Education Center; Shurley Ranch; Texas Bison Association; Texas Parks and Wildlife; Theater Department, Sul Ross State University; Two Rivers Camp; The Witte Museum; and to the following organizations within The University of Texas at Austin: Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center; Herpetology & Ichthyology Biodiversity Collections; Texas Archeological Research Laboratory; and the Visual Arts Center.