Shoes, drink cans, casings, underwear and fragments of holiday ornaments are crammed inside the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art. The Mountain of Trash represents Spirit Mountain, the main geological feature of the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument south of Las Vegas near Searchlight.
Barrick’s Conservatives The spirit of the earth exhibit explain that artists and volunteers have collected materials for the installation from 800 trees at the foot of the mountain over the past year – remnants of a ritual dating back to the 1980s, when locals named the area “Christmas Tree Pass” and began adorning it with festive “decorations”. Curators say they hope the exhibit raises awareness of Avi Kwa Ame and sparks a conversation about how humans view their wilderness outings and how they can affect others who belong to the land.
Paul Jackson of the Fort Mojave Tribe, one of The spirit of the earth‘s 50 participating artists, says appreciation is essential to preserving the landscape and sacred rituals. “Communicating and caring for animals and plants has always been our tradition, and it still is today,” says Jackson, the tribe’s teacher and field guide. “Much of it gets lost. There is not enough education.
Jackson’s paintings featured in the exhibit depict the land as the “creative place” of the Mojaves and other Yuman-speaking tribes who reside around the Colorado River, where Southern California, Nevada and Arizona meet. . “We believe that the mountains, in the early days, were our guardians, because they were alive.” says Jackson. “They took care of us by having natural spring water, … animals, different kinds of fruits and vegetables to eat. They were our protectors.
Whether it’s littering, using ancient petroglyphs for paintball target practice (or breaking them entirely for souvenirs), flying drones over sacred land formations without legal permission — and to share the location so off-roaders can find it — the land has been desecrated in ways that are irreversible, Jackson says. After generations of Fort Mojave tribesmen fought to protect the land, a bill introduced in Congress in February could further push for sustainable preservation of the area, if President Biden signs and nominates Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument.
Exhibit curators say the status of the land concerns not only the tribe, but also rural and urban residents, visitors, recreationists and environmental groups who all benefit. This multitude of perspectives can be seen in the exhibit, which runs concurrently at the Searchlight Community Center and will migrate to the Laughlin Library in April. Its “Community Postcards” exhibit includes more than 175 entries from diverse groups—off-road enthusiasts, rangers, and townspeople—interpreting the landscape with photos, paintings, and poetry on the backs of the postcards.
“We all have a different relationship to this place, but we all validly love [it]says co-curator Kim Garrison Means. “It has been very powerful for residents of rural communities and residents of Fort Mojave and other tribal communities who help us and city residents all see this. And then we can start communicating with each other on important matters.
The spirit of the earth March 25-July 23; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free. Opening March 25, 5 p.m. Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, spiritoftheland.org.
Click on HERE to subscribe for free to Weekly Fix, the digital edition of the Las Vegas Weekly! Stay up to date with the latest Las Vegas concerts, shows, restaurants, bars and more, delivered straight to your inbox!