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Martin Stupich
at 222 Shelby Street Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Kathryn M Davis

Continuing through June 7, 2010

Tom Tavelli might well call his gallery the Place Where Western Stereotypes are Challenged. His crew of Wyoming artists, including Santa Fean transplant Pat Kikut, tend toward kitsch as a tool in their arsenal that razes overly romanticized views of the West - a West they know from daily life. Yet their kitsch hearkens to a well-used, chipped, and beloved cookie jar that represents all that is familiar. And while there is nothing kitschy about Martin Stupich's industrial landscapes, there lingers in them the same sense of the mostly overlooked mundane that he shares with other gallery artists.

"Red Desert: History of a Place" was released as a book edited by Annie Proulx, and features, alongside Stupich's photographs, essays by scientists and scholars about an ungodly place that is the epitome of inhospitability, yet hides its own deceptively delicate living systems. Bisected by Interstate 80, the Red Desert is an alkaline hell that hosts ghost towns, abandoned railroad tracks, and bubbling mud holes. There is little potable water or vegetation; even the boulders seem to be trying to escape ("Rocks Migrating Down Wash in Canyon at Haystacks Buttes, Sweetwater County, WY"). Stupich depicts this vast track of our West with love and respect; at the same time there's no getting around the heat, the stink, or the danger that this place holds near to its chest like a poker player bidding to his death.

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