Paula Castillo Sculpture NEW MEXICO HISTORY MUSEUM 2009
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New Mexico History Museum | my home over there, now I remember it

My goal for the New Mexico History Museum was simply to offer work that sensitized the viewer for the experience inside the museum. The entrance to the museum was the perfect vehicle to offer the setting to the epic story of New Mexico. In a classic epic, the setting typically includes an image of the universe and here that universe truly is the environment of New Mexico: the river, the mountains, and the forests. This is home.


The pieces reference, as manuscript, the landscape, and they hopefully offer a simple yet profound way to understand the connection between the natural world in New Mexico and our story. I wanted the work to highlight the unknown logic of belonging in New Mexico…a sense of belonging that is not bound to a specific spot on the map, but to a system of movement. New Mexico has in many ways always been about movement…she still is: never inert or ‘fixed’…always richly complicated.


PERMANENT PUBLIC SCULPTURE: New Mexico Arts in Public Places Program | New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, NM.

Description of each piece:


dos hermanas, dos árboles” (two sisters, two trees)

This piece references motherhood, our forests, the Douglas fir and archeological scholarship in NM. Generally speaking, a tree is a powerful metaphor and is considered a symbol of antiquity, life, strength and home. Many people who have never been to New Mexico are always surprised by the plethora of forests in our state. These high-elevation forests have provided resources for humans and wildlife for thousands of years. One particular tree, which inspired the form for these sculptures, is the Douglas fir. It is one of New Mexico’s most important and valuable trees and accounts for 45 percent of the total saw timber volume from New Mexico forests. Douglas fir is also an Indo-Hispano remedio. An antiseptic resin obtained from the trunk, infusions of the green bark, the leaves, young sprouts and twigs have been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments. The Douglas fir is also a powerful symbol for many Tewa. In some Tewa villages it is said that the people climbed up a Douglas fir rising out of the lake, and that the first one up was the Tewa culture hero, a supernatural being sometimes called the son of the sun, who taught the art of living to the people. Douglas Fir is also the Holy Grail for dendrochronologists, not only because it has an incredibly extensive range, but also because it has a very good climate signal almost everywhere it is found. My use of small pieces of recycled steel to create generative patterns is a material metaphor for referencing the science of dendrochronology and the history of archeological scholarship in NM, the history of the exploration.

Rio Grande Colcha

I like using Google Earth to check out places in New Mexico like the farm fields framing the Rio Grande down by Isleta Pueblo that you can see driving north on I-25 or a planned suburb on the West Side (Albuquerque), or an ATV site up by the Rio Puerco…the distance seems to translate back the strangeness. I like incorporating these images into my work because it can graph the complex labyrinth of culture/nature categories: these ‘places’ in our landscape are formed out of the overlap of events. For this project I thought that the symbol of a river was a perfect metaphor for the history museum because a river corresponds to the irreversible passage of time and so captured an image of the Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico. I used this as a study for the final graphic sculpture and overlaid it with a colcha design. The lyrical colcha patterns juxtaposed to the Rio Grande reference the effect of the sheep industry on the NM environment while illustrating the ubiquitous sharing of culture that art has always provided in NM…accumulating the burdens of humanity and history along the way.

barco: (boat)

The symbolism of a boat covers a range of territory: the female, the conscious in the unconscious, transition from one phase to another phase. Here the ‘barco’ serves as both an alliteration of the mountains that surround us in New Mexico as well as boats or ‘journeys’. It also provides a sociopetal embrace, beckoning the visitor into the museum.

My Home Over There

This text-based art is a line from the Nambé Tewa Home Song “That Mountain Far Away” used with permission from Nambé Pueblo. For the terrace I wanted to offer something that underscored the experience in the museum by way of a reflective postscript and so thought about the Tewa Home Songs first translated into English in 1920 by Dr. Joseph Spinden. This line in particular, “my home over there, now I remember it,” especially moved me because of it simple, direct and human sentiment. With minimal language it somehow includes the major as well as the everyday historical pieces that have coalesced into reading our history. In one small moment it quietly reminds us of both the way attachment to place informs our sense of identity and the inescapable impermanence of those places that are closest to our heart.