Political Outlooks

The art of New Mexico reflects political fights that have occurred between aesthetic perspectives, and political issues that artists address through their work.  John Sloan’s oil painting reflects a love–hate relationship between locals and newly arrived tourists who seemed to dominate Santa Fe during the Roaring Twenties.  

The first atomic bomb was invented and detonated in New Mexico, and its political impact has reverberated through out the world.  Patrick Nagatani spent more than a decade making photographs from a series, Nuclear Enchantment, that investigated the impact of nuclear energy on New Mexico.  These are very personal works; the artist incorporated himself in the work as the photographer on the left, looking back over his shoulder.   

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith creates images with political subject matter, such as this work that protests clothing donated by the government to Indians that was infected with smallpox.  Cartoonist Patrick Oliphant took a swipe at former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson with a portrait emphasizing the governor’s drug policies.  And finally, Bruce Nauman offers sage advice with his color lithograph encouraging us all to “live, or die.” 

Images from the New Mexico Museum of Art Collections

Live or Die (Red)
Bruce Nauman

Governor Johnson
Patrick Oliphant

First Atomic Explosion at a Distance of About Five Miles, Trinity Site, New Mexico, July 16, 1945
Berlyn B. Brixner, official photograph, Los Alamos Project, Optics Group (g 11)

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