Five Works of Art to Enjoy Outside the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science »Albuquerque Journal
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Editor’s Note: On the fourth Sunday of each month, Arts Journal Editor-in-Chief Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in ‘Gimme Five’.
Museums house pieces of history for the public.
Yet apart from a lot, there are still surprises to be found.
Take the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, for example. Although it was closed for most of the pandemic, there were still works of wonder to be seen around its campus.
Jayne C. Aubele, the museum’s adult programs educator / geologist, says many visitors are surprised to find works of art scattered around the museum and its campus.
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“From the beginning of the museum, the fine arts have been considered an essential part of its exhibitions,” explains Aubele. “Murals, paintings and sculptures, and even an explosive piece of art called detonography, are featured in our exhibits and help visitors immerse themselves in the natural science experience.”
Aubele says that outside the museum, the architecture, landscaping and some carefully selected artwork around the building connect science with the arts and the beauty of the natural world.
“Most people are so eager to enter the museum that they only pay passing attention to the pieces placed around the building,” she says. “On your next visit, take the time to explore the exterior of the museum and enjoy some of these unexpected works of art.”
1. “Arc de la Paix”: In the parking lot of the museum, there is a glazed section along the north side of the building which is the educational wing. In front of the entrance to the school complex is “Arc de la Paix”.
This is a life-size cast aluminum sculpture (approximately 5 feet tall) of a standing girl with multi-colored birds.
“She reaches out and releases an arch of folded origami bronze cranes, representing peace and the realization of hope, in the world,” says Aubele. “She reminds us that peace is not necessarily the absence of war or something we have to fight for. Instead, it is something that can be created with our intentions and sent out into the world through our actions and interactions with each other and with ourselves.
The piece is by Lorri Acott, of Dream Big Sculpture, an American artist whose sculptures are represented in galleries and private and public collections in the United States and around the world.
2. Spike and Alberta: “As you approach the museum entrance on 18th Street, you’ll pass between two life-size dinosaurs,” Aubele says. “Our front door guards are tall and beautifully detailed, and they have personality too.”
The pieces are the work of sculptor David Thomas, and he based his work on scientific data and fossil specimens.
Affectionately called by nicknames chosen by students in New Mexico, Spike is a Pentaceratops (5 horned) eating plant and Alberta is a meat-eating Albertosaurus, and both lived in New Mexico during the late Cretaceous period, when our state was oceanic. ownership before, ”says Aubele.
“Both sculptures are extremely detailed and even have appropriate scales and skin texture. Spike’s head is based on a skull in the museum’s paleontological collection. The horns are derived in part from a fossil that Thomas himself found in northwestern New Mexico.
Aubele says the figures were sculpted in a warehouse in Albuquerque, originally with a frame of rebar covered with wire mesh, then burlap and plaster, with the finish being done in clay. The multi-piece molds were then brought to the Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque, where they were reproduced in bronze sections. Spike and Alberta have been at the museum since its inception and are among the most photographed objects in Albuquerque.
3. “Cosmic Connection”: As you pass the museum entrance towards Mountain Road, look at the roofline on the east side of the museum building to see a piece of art titled “Cosmic Connection”. The art was designed to change colors to green and blue at night using fiber optic lights.
Created by artists Taos Juan and Patricia Navarrete, the sculpture is made of carbon steel with luminous paint. The Navarretes describe their sculpture as inspired by the Rio Grande, noting that water is an essential part of life and an important factor in New Mexico’s natural and cultural history. The sculpture also represents concentric circles which symbolize planetary movement.
“The artwork, installed in May 2002, was the first in the state to incorporate optical fiber as an aesthetic element. It was commissioned by 1% for Public Arts in association with the 1998-2000 fundraising construction of the DynaTheater Museum, the Space Science Wing, and the 18th Street Entrance to the Museum, ”says -she.
4. Blue Heron: “At this point in your walk outside the museum, you may want to look or cross the east side of 18th Street across from the museum entrance, to see the museum – Kiwanis Learning Garden, ”Aubele said.
“This native New Mexico plant garden is owned and maintained by the museum with funding from Kiwanis, and is used for learning by families and students. A working well and nearby windmill are the site of one of the monitoring sites for the aquifer mapping program managed by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. This garden not only teaches students, but also plays an important role in understanding the level of the water table in the North Albuquerque Valley.
Aubele says the garden is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but you can get a good look at its big blue resident.
“In front of the entrance to the garden is the museum’s newest piece of public art, titled ‘Yves Klein Blue Heron’ by sculptor Jeffie Brewer,” she says. “The giant blue bird, a treat for children who visit the garden, is made of steel and is 14 feet tall.”
It was installed at the museum in November 2020.
5. “Del Pasado al Futuro (from past to future)”: “Continue your walk to the corner of 18th Street and Mountain Road to see the oldest piece of art on display outside,” says Aubele. “This abstract sculpture was created by Federico Armijo and completed in 1986. The rock is a beautiful and unusual New Mexico travertine from Belen, and the stone represents the past. Polished stainless steel columns represent progressive scientific knowledge. A stainless steel sphere represents the accumulation of all knowledge up to the present, and the triangular shape represents the unknown and the future. It is a beautiful representation of the scientific subjects and the objectives presented by the museum.
Aubele says the piece was originally located at the north entrance to the museum and moved, with permission from the artist, to the corner of Mountain Road and 18th Street after the main entrance was moved to the 18th street.
“’Del Pasado al Futuro’ is the perfect gateway to continue your walk along the south side of the museum building along Mountain Road and the last outdoor artwork,” she says. “This open-air exhibit, free to museum visitors and anyone walking around, represents modern New Mexico and is a counterpoint to the ‘walk through geological time’ exhibits within the museum.”