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Las Cruces Area Artist Provokes Thoughts On How We Treat The Environment

Commentary: Wednesday evening we saw a thought-provoking photo show; next morning, making notes on fictional characters, I realized why everyone should write fiction; then a cousin called from California, dismayed about changes at the community college where she teaches art.

David Sorensen’s “Beautiful Barbarism” is at Art Obscura, a Mesilla Park gallery we really like. I took my time viewing the images.David moved to New Mexico for its peace and natural beauty, then noticed how we treat this land we love.

One image eloquently juxtaposes a sunset storm/rainbow with colorful graffiti on the roofless adobe walls of an abandoned bar. In another, the sun highlights a freshly-killed coyote strung up on a mesquite. A third shows a child’s pink sandal atop hundreds of spent shells in the desert.

David hopes to please and provoke us, encouraging us “to think about what we do to our environment in New Mexico,” adding, “I’ve also tried to show that there can be beauty in almost anything, depending on how you see it, not just our majestic landscapes. . . There can be a beauty and aesthetic to even the grubbiest of things.” (I thoroughly agree.) J. Paul Taylor received a private showing because of his age and vulnerability – a privilege for both Paul and David. I understand why his daughter wanted to bring a class to the show. Or shouldn’t I mention that? Are we still allowed to share glimpses of reality with schoolkids? Provoke reflection?

At twenty, I wouldn’t have picked up my bullet-shells either. “Hey, man, it’s the desert.” But we go out into the desert to escape town and people. Why make others seeking wildness stroll through our garbage? (Unless that’s the point.)

It would be healthy to think about what we do to our Earth. It would be healthy to consider that we share it with many others. And that our carelessness hurts more than aesthetics. It costs lives.

My cousin says her college is discontinuing her art program. One administrator complained that “People keep taking that class over and over. They must not be learning anything.” How about, maybe, they love it, I say to my cousin; and love your help deepening their vision. I think of the Seven Samurai character who wanted only to perfect his swordsmanship. Later I tell a high school senior that everything we study involves new ways of thinking, which sharpens the weird tool inside our skulls.

Writing fiction is a form of play and exploration I stumbled on early and never grew out of; but articulating others’ very different points of view is a tough task that demands you open your mind to let stuff flow freely in. Try, during a tense moment in a marriage, to write your spouse’s thoughts vividly. If kids were encouraged to write stories portraying kids with vastly different lives, just the effort might help.

I interrupt my reverie to take the dog to the river to run. The dog runs with joy, and likely no memory of her previous life in a crate. (And, yes, we pick up her droppings, something I’d not have dreamed of doing decades ago.) I pause to marvel at a spindly-legged Great Blue Heron, who quickly lifts her long wings and flies North along the largely dry riverbed, also bent on escaping human contact. The Organ Mountains redden, the sun disappears, and, despite us, everything must be all right.