Roxana Perez Mendez and Mario Marzan
‘Blooming from our center, we trekked forth in the Sierra Maria — Los Velez –looping from a center, immersing in the rosemary-fragrant and almond blossom spotted landscape, pivoting, scaling, descending and returning back to center. Our dialogue between body and landscape becomes a way to travel in time as well as space, to understand the landscape short of painting it. This informs how we relate to the natural world in an artistic context—our bodies are the instruments, our path the music. Making art about the landscape is one way of listening to the world, walking the landscape is another.
We began the residency at JOYA with a conversation, confronting triumphant yet troubled interpretations of nature and our practice’s relationship to it, aiming to answer tough questions about the perceptions of the environment, its ascribed meanings and shortcomings in reaching diverse perspectives. It was a direction that joined our individual practices. Most of our research while at Sierra Maria — Los Velez involved peripatetic modes of investigating places and employing logistics of outdoor navigation that respond to the landscape’s history, its people and the ecological imprints on the land. The terraces scraped into the mountain surface, the long worn paths scarred into the terrain, farms that form a wondrous cardiovascular system for water, Nature’s defiance in reclamation, all oriented us to our own geographic discoveries of the region. Witnessing the tremendous challenges, the landscape surrounding JOYA faces, our work points us to a direction of land conservation and to challenge what “Leave No Trace” ethics means to land long employed in support of human activity.
The time at JOYA allowed us to have conversations and brainstorm on a project we are calling CAMPO RESEARCH STUDIO, a collaboration that fosters the integration of nature and art through creative production and education, exploring the philosophical origins of walking, their connections to contemporary art, history, conservation and other intercultural connections. We walked nearly every day, looping routes that covered more than 120 kilometers. We started small and took paths that deviated off the trail into the dry contours of the mountains, searched for ancient caves, collected samples and photographs. Ultimately, our spirit grew with discovery as we walked into the nearby towns of Velez-Blanco and Maria, spiriting small interventions and performances, interacting with the people, the architecture and extensive trail system. Each of these explorations circled us back to JOYA, to our peers in residence and to the Beckmanns. Our paths formed a bloom with JOYA at its fixed center of origin, a spirograph upon the map. As we left, it was clear that a new loop was created. Our practice upon the landscape was initiated and our work, set forth at JOYA, will be complete upon our return’.
As our personal interest in hiking, trekking, and ecocriticism has grown, Mario Marzan and I (Roxana Perez-Mendez) are starting a new artistic collaboration that brings together our joint interest in the pedestrian, pedantic experience and the landscape, mirroring our collaboration on a new study abroad program that takes students through the Camino de Santiago while producing art all along the way. We want to embark on a small body of work based and produced while on a series of long distance hikes that enables us to generate visual, performative and written notation, correspondence, and further historic research. In this new context, the landscape will become our studio and the length of the walk our site.
This new partnership is centred on a common feature in our work in which the ways in which human constructs of land influence our experience of place. These particular contexts exist in our individual work: I have created video performances embedded in Pepper’s Ghosts Holograms and installations that situate the viewer into an Other’d landscape while Mario has created drawings and installations that reference the graphically encoded language of cartography and tropical weather patterns. Similarly, in both of our work, we interrogate the nineteenth-century Romantic landscape tropes and traditions. For this residency, we will, through the undertaking of a pilgrimage/series of long walks, undertake this discourse within the Parque Natural Sierra María – Los Vélez in order to experiment together the ways our mind frames the land and our experience of landscape. With this work we aim to demonstrate the vitality of deep-lasting human connections to land use by interweaving autobiographic and historic narratives into our experience of this park.
Artist and Associate Professor Roxana Pérez Méndez:
Professor Roxana Pérez-Méndez is a video performance and installation artist who creates work about the slippery nature of contemporary of history and identity through the lens of her own experience as a Puerto Rican woman. Her research interests include installation, site specific and video performance, imprint of the landscape or loss of landscape on the self, post-colonial/colonial identity, Spanish colonial history, Caribbean migration and migration politics, tourism and pilgrimages. Roxana embarked on her first Camino in 2012 and has logged thousands of miles on foot since. She holds a BFA from The Ohio State University and a MFA from Tyler School of Art.
Artist and Associate Professor Mario Manuel Marzán:
Professor Mario Marzán is an artist who creates work about the constantly shifting, changing and evolving negotiation of liminal spaces in relation to individual and cultural identities and histories. His research interests include landscape drawing and painting, investigations of place and space as a way to discuss identity, and maps as modes of representation. Among drawing courses, Professor Marzán teaches an immersive Walking Seminar course on the intersections of art and nature during UNC Maymesters. An avid hiker and long distance backpacker, Mario carries a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute Wilderness First Aid certification and has walked both the Camino del Norte and the Camino Frances. He holds a BFA from Bowling Green University and a MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.