United States

12 Exhibitions Not to Miss in New Mexico in the Fall

by Paul Joseph  |  Published September 13, 2021

New Mexico is blessed with some great museums that showcase the region’s rich history and culture, with numerous exhibitions running through this Fall.

(Photo: New Mexico History Museum)

The southwestern state is perhaps best known for its national parks and forests, among which the most famous area of natural beauty is undoubtedly the southern Rocky Mountains. But it also has a busy and bustling cultural scene that is evident in the diverse museums to be found in its cities and the regular exhibitions that take place in them. Here are 12 of the best being held during Fall 2021.

Working on the Railroad

When the railroad came to New Mexico in the late 19th century, it brought thousands of job opportunities for local people from rural villages, reservations, and larger towns. In addition, it also brought immigrant Chinese, European, and Mexican laborers to the state. This exhibition tells another side of New Mexico’s locomotive history that makes no mention of passenger trains or tourism; visitors will leave the exhibition with a greater appreciation of the difficulty of this work.  All workers are represented – women, immigrants, young and old – and most jobs are represented, both on and off the tracks, from steel gangs to machinists and car cleaners to conductors.

New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe / Through 18 October 2021

In the Sliver of the Sun

(Photo: Harwood Museum of Art)

Part of a series created by Bosnia and Herzegovina-born artist Maja Ruznic, this exhibition depicts ghostly figures that arouse a sense of touch through erasure. Simultaneously fading into and emerging from the horizon, they are represented as if returning from a long, arduous journey. The artist uses thin stains and washes of acrylic and oil paint to create the initial compositions for these works, building up the surfaces by scumbling and layering, then sanding the dry paint to expose the texture of the canvas. This unique process is designed provoke a sense of ghostly materiality – an undefined absence.

Harwood Museum of Art, Taos / Through 26 September 2021

Storytellers: Narrative Art and the West 

The traditions of storytelling in the American Southwest go back to ancient times and the indigenous populations of the region, and include themes such as satire, agriculture and ecology, everyday experiences, celebrations, grief, and local history. This exhibition explores the various ways artists have told stories about the Southwest in their work. Among the works on display are numerous illustrations of historic events such as Diego Romero’s images of the Pueblo Revolt, paintings of local religious ceremonies a la Henderson’s Holy Week in New Mexico, and Gina Knee’s comical lampoons of contemporary society.

New Mexico Museum of  Art, , Santa Fe / Through 13 February 2022

Bubble Table

(Photo: Santa Fe Children’s Museum)

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum, founded in 1985, is a fun and engaging hands-on experience for all ages. The museum offers over 35 interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits including magnetic building tables, a 1.5-acre outdoor exhibit area and community garden, an early childhood area, and more! The giant Bubble Table is the most popular exhibit with its assortment of bubble wands, and the chance to make a child-sized bubble.

Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Santa Fe / Permanent

Albuquerque senior attempts to set world record

(Photo: New Mexico Holocaust Museum)

In 2019 the CROWN Act was created in California to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles and has since come into force in states across the US. A year later, in part inspired by these new laws, Albuquerque resident Hiddekel Sara Burks challenged herself to set a new Guinness World Record for braiding yarn. A retired nurse and founder of the National Braiders Guild, Hiddekel is a veteran braider and has pledged to continue with her quest until she braids 6,000 feet and breaks the current record. Due to reach that landmark in around November 2021, the fruits of her unfinished work can be seen on display at the museum. The installation features the actual braiding process, as well as a portrait photo exhibit displaying braided hairstyles created by Hiddekel down the years.

New Mexico Holocaust Museum, Albuquerque / Through mid-November

#mask: Creative Responses to the Global Pandemic

In 2020, the new strain of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, shocked and consumed our world, killing and hospitalising millions, and resulting in unparalleled restrictions on our daily lives. In response to the pandemic, face masks have become daily attire for people around the world and for many are used as a creative outlet, representing self-expression, political stance, fashion, and a symbol of humanity’s hope and care for one another. This exhibition is an ode to the face mask, and to the artists and every day citizens making their way through the global health crisis.

Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe / Through 15 January 2023

The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons

(Photo: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

For more than 80 years, Warner Bros. animation has been bringing joy to all ages, providing some of the most iconic animated characters of all time. The traditional hand-drawn animation that went into their creation was a complex and time-consuming process, with each character conceptualised, sketched, drawn, and hand-coloured – all before filming even began. In this exhibition, visitors can get a rare glimpse of sketches, model sheets, paintings, and animation ‘cels’ (short for ‘celluloids’) that went into producing these famous films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque / 28 September 2021 – 2 January 2022

Gestures and Geometry: Abstract Paintings and Prints by Phillis Ideal

Growing up in the desert combined with more than three decades living in the crowded metropolis New York City, has served to define the work of New Mexican artist Phillis Ideal. For this exhibition, the artist, known for quirky nonobjective paintings that incorporate collage and spray paint, downloaded and mastered an app known as Zen Brush and has created a series of drawings that recall ink or graphite works by the ‘”founding fathers” of gestural painting – Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. The result is a remarkable range of effects achieved on a tiny cell-phone screen, from snaking lines to the subtlest of tones. And though they are made with the most up-to-the minute tools, they still show the unmistakable evidence of the human hand – a quality that connects them with those very first efforts at capturing experience on a stable surface tens of thousands of years ago.

Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell / 11 September – 11 November 2021

Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology

(Photo: IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts)

Documenting international indigenous artists’ responses to the impacts of nuclear testing, nuclear accidents, and uranium mining on native peoples and the environment, this exhibition is designed to give artists a voice to address the long-term effects of these man-made disasters on indigenous communities in the US and around the world. Artists from Australia, Canada, Greenland, Japan, Pacific Islands, and the United States utilise local and tribal knowledge, as well as indigenous and contemporary art forms, as visual strategies for the thought-provoking artworks on display.

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe / 20 August 2021 – 23 January 20222

Mira, Mira On the Wall: Reflecting on 20 Years of Exhibitions

To mark the twentieth anniversary of The National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) in 2020, the museum looked back through its archives to reflect on two decades of exhibitions. Mira Mira On the Wall recounts a selection of exhibits that have been presented over the last two decades at the acclaimed cultural venue. It examines their impact on the permanent collection, the importance of the stories that have been told, and celebrates the artists that have participated in shaping the identity of the museum over the years.

National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque / Through 2 January 2022


(Photo: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology)

Modern humans are among the most biologically successful, and unique, living mammals. Through the development of extensive and elaborate technology, humankind has become a major influence on the modern world, modifying it for our purposes and altering the lives of other creatures. This exhibition chronicles those aspects of modern humanity that has enabled us to stand out from a crowded field, tracing the path of evolution through the past four million years, from walking on two legs, to the use of tools, symbols, and language that have all had their own evolutionary trajectory throughout the era of human emergence.

Maxwell Museum of Anthropology,  Albuquerque / Permanent 

Exotic Parrots in the Desert Southwest

The exotic colourful parrot was brought up from the Natives hailing from the regions of present-day Central America and Mexico. They were traded live and their feathers were prized possessions for the Natives as far north as the plains, with these beautiful birds becoming divine figures in the cultures of the Southwestern Pueblos, often included in clans and in some cases considered a symbol for fertility. This exhibition offers an intimate and fascinating look at some of these parrots and how they have been depicted over the years, from being painted on pottery to  inlayed on jewellery to a fine katsina deity.

Millicent Rogers Museum, El Prado / Through 22 February 2022