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Art exhibit sheds light on exposure deaths

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Local downtown ART123 Gallery will present a unique art show entitled “Exposure,” which will be up from Feb. 14 - March 7, located at 123 West Coal Avenue, Gallup.

A group of seven artists collaborated on the group project with the intent of the project to bring attention to and address exposure deaths in the Gallup area.

Ashton S. Phillips, Christian Bigwater, Bear Mescale, Jonathan Campbell, Rutherfor Ashley, Henry Yazhe and Brad Charles round out the artists involved in the exhibition.

Along with the art project, they’ve brought in speakers to highlight different underlying causes, responses, and actions, as well as other related issues. according to Executive Director and ArtsCrawl Coordinator Rose Eason.

“Each artist will be doing their own individual works as well as collaborative works,” Eason said. “We will also have individuals citing their own poetry readings.”

The catalyst for this project is artist, Ashton S. Phillips, who along with his wife and 18-month-old son, recently moved from Philadelphia to Gallup. He came upon the idea as he was taking pictures around the Gallup area. Phillips happened to stumble across a open field on the east side of Gallup where he saw a slew of empty vodka bottles.

“I found these 31 empty Importer Vodka bottles behind a fence on the east end of Gallup and decided to pick them up,” Phillips said. “When I saw them I thought this is the story of an individual who lived here and these are the artifacts that tell his story  – a very tragic story.’”

Phillips plans to mount the bottles on a wall along with a police report indicating of a recent exposure death. Displayed also will be a map of Gallup and within that map are plotted locations of several recent exposure deaths.

“This map is a work in progress and we’re still adding additional points with photographs taken at these plots.” he said.

An interesting note on this interview, prior to getting started, an individual came into the art studio hours before and asked if he could paint a picture. Phillips obliged and gave the man a pad and marker. The man was intoxicated.

“This man came in asked if he could make art. He was highly intoxicated and appeared to be living in the streets,” Phillips said. “Given the subject of the show and my personal experiences of going to these places where these individuals have died, I couldn’t say no, it’s very beautiful.”

Meanwhile, Christian Bigwater, a member of the Dine Nation and Gallup resident has been painting since he was in high school, is excited to be a part of this project.

“I like the subject matter here and that’s why I was compelled to do it,” Bigwater said. “I like the challenge of how to express this in a artistic form so that it impacts the community where we are from; that is why I got into it.”

An Artist Reception will be held on Feb. 18, from 6-8 pm. Come see the completed project, hear poetry readings, and chat with the artists.

For more information contact ART123 Gallery (505) 488-2136 or visit online: www.galluparts.org

Story and photos

by Dee Velasco 
For the Sun