International Terrain: Artist Karma Barnes' Flood Affected Works Acquired By New Mexico Art Museum

Published by: Barnes Press | 4-Jun-2024
The New Mexico State University Art Museum (NMSU) has made a landmark acquisition: two powerful artworks by Karma Barnes that confront the social impacts of compounded climatic events in Northern Rivers, NSW. This marks a pivotal moment for Barnes, now recognised by a major art institution. These pieces amplify NMSU's commitment to contemporary issues and underrepresented voices, fostering international arts dialogue and addressing the profound social challenges posed by climate change.
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International Terrain: Artist Karma Barnes' Flood Affected Works Acquired By New Mexico Art Museum
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Compounded Caldera, 2022 Karma Barnes
The New Mexico State University Art Museum (NMSU), New Mexico, USA has proudly announced the acquisition of two significant artworks addressing the social impacts of climate change on Bundjalung County, Northern Rivers, NSW by interdisciplinary artist Karma Barnes. This marks the artist's first acquisition by a major art institution, signifying institutional recognition of Barnes' work.

"The NMSU Art Museum is pleased to announce the acquisition of two works by the interdisciplinary artist Karma Barnes. 'Compounded Caldera' (2022) and 'Raw Earth Pigment Palette of Australia' (2022) have been added to the NMSU Permanent Art Collection. Previously featured in the 2023 exhibition 'Wild Pigment Project,' curated by Tilke Elkins and displayed in the Mullennix Bridge Gallery within the NMSU Permanent Art Collection, this acquisition marks a significant enhancement to the collection of mixed-media works. Situated in the natural environment of southern New Mexico, these works, although not from New Mexico, highlight the importance of research and preservation surrounding the natural environment and the cultural histories entwined within the landscapes across the world. These distinctive artworks offer exciting opportunities for research and engagement for both NMSU students and the broader community."

Courtney Uldrich, Collections Curator

University Art Museum, New Mexico State University

Acquired artwork, "Compounded Caldera" (2022), is a profound exploration of our intertwined relationship with the earth and the environmental crises that is shaping our lives. In "Compounded Caldera," Barnes reflects on the Latin roots of the words for human and soil, emphasizing how soil serves as the interface between our bodies and the environment. This artwork draws on the notion that soil is both the literal and metaphorical source of life, shaping and being shaped by the dramatic shifts in environmental cycles. "Compounded Caldera" highlights how we are formed and informed by both our internal experiences and the external pressures of climate events like bushfires, droughts, floods, and pandemics. Barnes meticulously sources pigments from disturbed landscapes such as landslides and erosion banks, gathered from Bundjalung Country, NSW, Australia transforming these materials into a narrative of resilience and adaptation. Through "Compounded Caldera," Barnes captures a moment in time when compounded climatic events in Northern NSW had left little room for respite. The artwork serves as a testament to the ongoing environmental and social challenges, illustrating how both the land and human experience are continuously reshaped by these forces.

The acquired artworks belong to the Relative Terrains series, which examines the psychological responses and collective social experiences triggered by compounded catastrophic ecological events on the East Coast of Australia. The series was originally intended for exhibition at the Lismore Regional Gallery but due to the extensive damage to the gallery during the 2022 Eastern Australia Floods, the Relative Terrains exhibition was shown in partial at LRG with the major exhibition relocated and presented at Grafton Regional Gallery at the end of 2023.

NMSU will integrate the entire Relative Terrains body of work, including exhibition hand-painted catalogues, documentation, videography, essays, and resources, into their catalogue system. This move aligns with the museum's dedication to preserving and promoting art that contributes to a broader understanding of contemporary issues. The NMSU collection is known for its focus on significant works by female, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented and marginalised artists. The collection includes notable works by artists such as Agnes Martin, Judy Chicago, and Nick Cave.

Additionally, the installation Co-Lapses, from Karma Barnes's series Relative Terrains, is set to be presented at the Arsenale Nord, Venice, Italy, at the 18th Edition Arte Laguna Prize Finalist Exhibition in November.

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