28 August 2010

LIving On the Border Karl Hoffman

"The border is not just a place. It is the thinnest line between the lives of human beings, subject to different laws, cultures and heritage, yet intertwining for generations "
Karl Hoffman's work on the border is powerful as it is sensitive. It opens your heart to see the human issues of people caught in between. A self published movie; a reflection of on the borderlands.

27 August 2010

The Other Side of the Fence; A Love Song for Mexico

I am grateful for this opportunity to share a window to the other side of the border and share a few stories with you published today in Flagstaff's local art/news paper FlagLIVE:Cover Story;The Other Side of the Fence Written by Penelope Bass

I hope to continue fostering a creative dialogue to help inspire change and raise awareness and alternative solutions to address the complex issues we are being confronted with and show our shared cultural connections as well as examples of bi national cooperation of what is possible in these dark and complex times. I hope to reflect the great humanity and history that has been my inspiration and motivation to learn about our shared connections to each other and the land called the Americas. Please join me on the visual odyssey and cross over to the other side.

For more information on Casas Grandes,Chihuahua please visit:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

In a land where cultural connections run like roadmaps—where German Mennonites live alongside Mexican farmers, where archaeological ruins mirror those in our own back yard, where chocolate and turquoise crossed paths—our most basic connection, a shared humanity, is suffering, severed by political borders.

For the last three years, local photographer Raechel Running has been living and traveling throughout the borderlands of Mexico. With the new exhibit “Sueños de Aztlan: Journey of the Plumed Serpent,” Running is sharing her experiences and her photos from a community and a people who have shown her warmth, kindness and a shared history.

Life in the Borderlands

A section of chain link fence covers the large front window at the Flagstaff Photography Center, the cold, gray metal contrasted against several red roses woven through the links. Inside, a collection of photos—selected from thousands that were taken— represents the traditions, compassion and joyfulness of a culture whose people are rarely depicted as anything other than drug smugglers, human traffickers and illegal immigrants in the media lately.

“The hospitality and the kindness and the diversity and the richness of the culture is what has really inspired me,” Running explains. “I find that everyday is like a field trip or an opportunity to learn something I have never known.”

Running originally traveled to Mexico to work on a piece for a magazine about master potter Juan Quezada. The story fell through, but Running was invited to stay as an artist-in-residence by her hosts and friends Spencer and Emi MacCallum, who have been instrumental in reviving the arts in areas of Mexico. Running stays in a home in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, about two and a half hours south of the border on Highway 89. What was supposed to be a three-month stint turned into three years as Running found herself pulled deeper into the culture and its history.

“Usually when we learn history we never get the stories, we just get the facts. But by living in Mexico, you get the stories,” Running says. “The place where I live is the place where the first battle of the Mexican Revolution began. Up the road there is a field where much of the produce that comes to America is grown. Within 930 miles there are all these connections.”
The more stories she learned, the more connections she discovered —between Mexican communities and the Mormon settlements, between ancient agricultural practices and current organic farming, between the ruins at Wupatki and those at Paquimé. She studied ranching, farming and conservation efforts. She found herself riding horseback across ancient trade routes. She communicated wordlessly with a small community of Mennonites.

“It’s sort of the project that keeps leading me; you could describe it as peeling an onion,” gushes Running in a nearly non-stop stream of consciousness. “It’s almost like an outline that I keep following in different directions, and it’s been over three years and I still feel that even if I do another 40 years of work I’ll barely have scratched the surface.”

She continues, “It’s been really fascinating to see the story. And part of my work is to tell these stories and to help other people learn that there are these stories. I really feel that we need to look at where we come from and what our history is and what really happened in this landscape thousands of years ago as we are looking at the problems that we’re facing now. The fear and the hate and the racism that is happening right now—I just feel that if people could learn and be inspired to look beyond and get re- educated and re-acknowledge the history of the greater Southwest, that that could make a change.

“When people say things like ‘Go back to where you come from,’ they don’t realize that they’re actually on old, indigenous Mexican lands; that the borders are manmade, but that hasn’t changed people’s relationship to the land.”

Making the connection

When SB 1070 was introduced and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, outrage spread rapidly across the state and the country. Many hailed it for finally taking action on long-neglected immigration policies while others decried it for being blatantly racist and furthering an environment of fear and hatred. Living down in Mexico, Running was afforded a unique perspective on the controversial issue.

“The show is kind of to address the SB 1070 not through hate, but by showing what
is on the other side of the fence; what is on the other side of hate, on the other side of fear,” Running explains. “We’re inundated with this negative viewpoint and I don’t think it’s helping the dialogue at all. What I’ve chosen to photograph is also what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen. I just felt like this was my responsibility, that this is how I could perhaps bring understanding to our community and also be a representative of the people I’ve met … they can’t come here and speak, and part of my responsibility is to help people see these other people—to see our humanity. The hardest part for me, recently with the passing of SB 1070 is that the everyday people from my community, they ask, ‘Why do the Americans hate us?’ And these are older people, and they just don’t understand what the racism is because they feel that they are part of this America.”

The inclusive nature of Running’s exhibit, which includes not only her photographs and photo collages but also Mata Ortiz pottery and Mennonite quilts, is an example of the connections she discovered and what her mentor Spencer MacCallum refers to as “artistic fluorescence.”

“These activities create beauty and functionality, and those are things that bring the community together and help us to dialogue and learn about each other,” says Running. “Most people don’t know anything about the people living on the other side of the fence.”

Ultimately, Running says she hopes that people will use her exhibit as an opportunity to look beyond borders, both political and those within us. “This disaster and this hate is an opportunity for us to become re-educated and to open our hearts to learn how to become more human,” she says. “If you get that personal experience, it might change your world view. Each of these photographs has an aspect of the story. It’s about being open to each other’s stories or to learn the story, because that’s when the story becomes universal.”

Because politics is a slow-moving beast, Running says she has seen the most positive results in across-the-border cooperation through smaller community groups and projects to promote education, cultural arts, health care, housing and community gardens. Most recently, Running has been working with two ongoing projects: Rancho Feliz, which helps to create community relationships and to increase the availability of health care and education, and Somos La Semilla, which is working to find community food solutions.

“Walls don’t work. What works is providing people the opportunities necessary for them to live and raise their families with dignity in their own country,” says Gil Gillenwater, founder of Rancho Feliz.

“The work is hopeful and brings people together to create human solutions overcoming the politics and fear,” adds Running. She says that understanding can come through a reconnection of our humanity, and while her show does coincide with a political issue, the real story is about people.

“Initially, I think I envisioned it being a little more political, but then this is what it evolved to. It is more like a love song. It’s from this place of people being in between, like an unrequited love. And people wanting to connect; I think there is an aspect of humanity that wants to connect. We’re not really taught how to do that, and less and less so. When people find it, it’s like water. It’s quenches something within them and lets something else grow.”

“Sueños de Aztlan” is on display at the Flagstaff Photography Center, 107 N. San Francisco, until Fri, Sept. 17. For more info, call 774-2544 or visit
www.flagstaffph otographycenter.com. For more about Raechel Running, or to see more examples of her work, visit her Web site at www.raechelrunning.com.

22 August 2010

Reaching Beyond Borders :

Reaching Beyond Borders : Arizona Daily Sun by Betsy Bruner

Thank you Betsy Bruner for covering Suenos De Aztlan. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the observations and connections I've seen along the borderlands. When the people of my pueblo, young and old, ask me, "Why do Americans, Arizonans hate us? " what am I to say? It is a sense of shame to be an Arizonan; but also I am one of those whose life is inspired by Arizonians and the diversity that makes up the amazing history of our state. Is it possible to be ashamed and proud at the same time of what it means to be an Arizonian whose life has been shaped by the cultures of Arizona; Mexicans and Native American cultures their history is entwined with the landscape. How is it that people like Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe redefine Arizona's identity with such disregard of human dignity. It is what compels me to look beyond and see how to weave ourselves, communities and families back together.

Today it is raining and I think of the Snake Ceremony at HOPI and the Katchinas and the ancient Gods of this land. I think of the path of the Plumed Serpent whether from South America as some say or Meso America and what a journey it was to go on a quest to help one's people. I smell the rain as it falls outside my window. How many Hopi dances on the Mesas I've seen since I was was a little girl watching the clouds for imaginary pictures as I laid on the backseat looking through the car window; the empty landscapes; the red earth; the heat of summer; the coldness of grape or orange soda in glass bottles clinked out of old bottle coolers. I think of all the young Hopi Homies wearing Heavy Metal shirts, Bob Marley, Marijuana, Sponge Bob, Phoenix Suns and Mi Vida Loca shirts standing with their grandmas; the grandmas holding beautiful fat babies; families gathered close; under umbrellas and multicolored shawls making shade against the sun or shielding from the rain. I remember the songs I've heard; a rhythm, a connection to Spirit, God, Nature, humankind.... I squint my eyes to remember the years I've come here to listen, to watch and learn ; to feel in my Soul this mysterious union.

There is so much still not in the exhibition and I hope some of you will peruse the site and be inspired. It is because of my time in Mexico and learning what I have that I am inspired to look again to my backyard history in Arizona. I hope that people will be inspired to make their own connections and see what we share so we may develop better policies between our countries. It is one to one we can have make a difference as we experience the world overcome fear and alienation by seeing the bigger picture.

There is much gratitude and the show is a labor of love of the many people who I am blessed to call friends and family on both sides of the frontera who support this endeavor and keep me on the path to do my work and follow the muse.

Here's some links and clarifications from the story for those of you who want to know more!

Emi and Spencer Mac Callum; Hosts with the most-est!

A place where cultures, art, & science meet. Travel and cultural information.
Cultural ambassadors of good will and always game for a field trip. Spencer is an Anthropologist and they advocate cultural understanding and the arts of the Casas Grandes Region and for cultivating the Mata Ortiz Pottery Movement.

Francisco I. Madero injured in the Battle of Casas Grandes on March 6, 1911

Hopi Snake Ceremony; 1913

On the path of rain. Was it a thousand years ago or yesterday people gathered on roof tops and waited for the ceremony to begin? Traditions continue; the songs and prayers; the ceremony for rain and the fields of corn....feathers touch appeased snakes in the sacred space of corn meal ; the plaza full of grandparents holding babies; Hopi Homies; young people and old; extended families gather close; long shadows play and light dances on the Katchinas; The Sacred mountain in the distance healing from fire and rain is a shade of lavender blue - modern and ancient times merge along the horizon with clouds forming. Are they more beautiful than I remember? because I am more aware of them? or because I know clouds know no borders. I think of all the places I've been and seen; the stories of the plumed serpent compelling me further south to lands unknown; I stood in front of the Temple of the Serpent and climb the Temple of the Sun. I reflect on my winter's journey. Memories of talking with medicine people selling tourist trinkets and making altars on the corner of the bustling Zocolo of Mexico City. I felt so far from home as I knew it and yet it's all connected to the story of Tiyo, the Hopi man who went on the journey through Grand Canyon all the way to the Red City to the south-to help his people in a time of drought. How is it we're so connected by technology and yet feel compelled to create walls? and disconnected from our neighbors? those who live next door and who are our neighboring countries. The Ramamuri dance their Yamari and keep to their traditions as do the Hopis- Copper Canyon, the Mesas, Arizona, Chihuahua. There is a mystery enduring and I pray for peace, love, and understanding. I am grateful for the journey and to share what I've seen and felt. A song of soft rain. The snakes carry the prayers to the earth and the rain clouds come.


File:Kabotie Mural in Desert View Watchtower.jpg

13 August 2010

Raechel Running Suenos de Aztlan FPCshow

Slideshow of my current work at the Flagstaff PHOTO Center.
This has been an experiment with youtube and flickr to see how a visual presentation works in a new medium. A bit of late night editing and holding your mouth right. Hope you enjoy the virtual tour. Gracias!!!

12 August 2010

Sebastiao Salgado: The Photographer as Activist

The photographer as activist. I am looking forward to this; Passion, visual stories from an intimate point of view. How to be socially engaged? Through art? a newspaper? the computer? How do we keep our eyes open to help frame our future? Pixelpress.org

Silent words of Saints: The work of Luis Carlos Bernal

The work of Luis Carlos Bernal speaks of old dust; still in an abandoned house or wild on the wind of some dusty road between the middle lands of the us/mexico border. Pool halls, old vatos when they were young; family and the silent words of saints speaking from pools of light. Luis listened with his camera and his heart.

I remember meeting him with my family when I was a kid. Kind face and smiling BIG. His book sits on my table in the Casa Azul where I look at his photo everyday. Sometimes I have coffee with the people in between the pages and wonder what he felt; what compelled him to document; He made a funny series of contemporary AZTEC warriors doing the suburb thing.

At the show opening we talk about photographers looking at the border issues.
To revisit Bernal's work inspires me to continue to do what I am doing.
One day when I was doubting myself my dad wrote me and sent me a set of images he had just made in jpgs; it simply said, "This is what we do." We make pictures. It's our work; and best of all is when people get to look at it and connect with the image that is larger than just the lens that caught it. Maybe it is like silent prayers; it's an act of alchemy even in the digital age. Something can transmute between a piece of paper and the soul of us touched by the play of shadow and light.

10 August 2010

Good Neighbor Awards: Gil Gillenwater: Slideshow

" Walls don't work.
What works is providing people the opportunities
necessary for them to live and raise their families
with dignity in their own country."

07 August 2010

Suenos de Atzlan: Showtime!

Packing out the Casa Azul always seems to take days to disengage and get it all in the Mariachi Mobile. Saying adios to Emi and Spencer and missing them before I've even turned the corner. The long 11 hour drive home is different because I have a Mexican cat with papers : ) She ends up sitting on my lap most of the way. Charms the border guards and we cross the lines with no more than a blink of an eye. It's a relief. The old road from Polomas is being repaved. The roadside shrines that have been my markers along the curves have been blown up in the name of progress... I wave goodbye to St. Jude wondering if he'll be gone the next time I cross back over. It makes me feel sentimental. Roads change everything. The volcanic landscape green from the rains- it is so hard to leave when the world is so beautiful and the headlines of the day don't seem to exist when the natural world is resplendent in the natural patterns of the seasons.

I don't get to my northern home til midnight after driving through the beautiful landscapes of western New Mexico with the kitty on my lap/ on my head/ walking across the dashboard; draped over the steering column; under my feet. How do I explain the new world she's about to encounter? How far we are from our humble life in el Pueblo. I watch the plateau of Northern Arizona lay open as I pass through St. John to Holbrook. Country western and old 80's rocks on the ipod. I tuned into KUYI radio. I pause by the upper reaches along the banks of the Little Colorado and think of sacred corn floating downstream in currents of red sands, swirling down, down to the confluence of the main stem of the Colorado to merge back to the sea and follow the path of rain back into clouds; to be drawn again to the land by the songs of ancient spirits and mythic Gods of nature. I follow Thaloc and the plumed serpent's movements in clouds and turn west to the San Francisco Peaks; the Sacred mountain calls.

Showtime. I always have a BLOCK to except how much time goes into a show. Months; years; thousands of photographs. Moments I want to share. Ideas. Stories. Editing. and more editing. Printer gremlins and late night inspirations.

Studiolandia. A repository of my life before Mexico. The dust grows in layers of the seasons to be brushed away.Running helps me to print. Jason takes down Chip's show. He finds the perfect coca cola red. Print. edit. print. Peter discovers the mysterious 300 G of comprised space on the hard drive; printing; framing;jump drives and photoshop marathons; editing and archiving; remembering; faces; stories. the wind in the sierra prairies; rain Gods and thunder; Living with the work; moving it around. Prints on tables. on the floor. on the walls. The work goes from studio to studio- images fly around; different stories are told in the sequencing- I want to include more stories. Jason makes the call. Go with the flow. it feels like a miracle when it all comes together.5 pm. We hi-5 over beans and rice. una.dos.tres. We could never imagined coordinating the events on the square as I move through the folklorico dancers; young flowers blooming in the summer monsoon. Los Compadres warms up the ambiante;my dad brings me roses and jason laces them into the fence. the musica begins. friends and familia. the stories are shared. laughter. sentimental tears. clowns and serpents. there are few pictures to show the reconnections of so many layers of Flagstaff's community. At 11pm the lights go down and the first drops of a beautiful rain.

01 August 2010

Los Compadres

"Dime de donde vienes y te digo para donde vas" " Tell me where you've been and I will tell you where you are going."

Los Compadres are practicing at the local barber shop. One of the last refuges of the original downtown. Running invited me to check out the new piano jazz bar-after getting an invitation I make a side trip to pop in on Los Compadres practice. It is wonderful to step into this traditional man's world where all the effects of the years are gathered on the walls; Guitar cases open, grooming supplies, a gazillion polaroids fill every bit of wall space. Old black and white photos, signs, and I swear an image of St. Jude smiles at me. What a warm welcoming- The Compadres, Jesse Rodriguez, Manny and Herman Ullibari greet my pops and I with their warm smiles. Come in!! Come in!! hand shakes and kisses. They always ask how my mother is- and welcome me back from Mexico. I instantly feel sentimental and feel the warmth of what I love embrace me in this small space. They sing Carmelita-the guitars, the rich voices mix with the smell of soap and the pale color of blue. History; Grandfathers, grandsons; They have known me since I was a little girl- this is traditional music. I feel it embrace me like grandfather's arms and the warmth of grandmother's kitchens and homemade cooking. I drift between the worlds of Mexico/ US and I feel the music is a bridge. This expression of grace and gratitude. I think about how many years they have played together. How many weddings, gatherings, funerals; all the faces I can remember of some people who are no longer here. I think of my pueblo and those singers who bring us joy, laughter. They sing a few more songs and I make a few pictures - I hope I can get them recorded maybe at the punk rock studio - I feel grateful for the gift of their songs they will share at the Suenos de Aztlan opening this coming friday. I make mental notes of still lifes to make when I can come again and have time to take it all in and see all the little details. Let me remember this always-

Driving and Editing. Adios Mexico. HOLA America!

Editing photographs. Getting ready for the show. After an eleven hour drive, crossing the border, and unpacking coming home to Flagstaff I think of the rain and migrations. I packed up the Mariachi Van and the cat. Leaving Casas Grandes, the desert greening, and the rivers flowing make it hard to leave. I keep my focus on my inspiration to do this show, Suenos de Aztlan, as a visual celebration of love to honor Mexican culture and all that I've been learning since I went south over three years ago in my protest against Arizona's law SB1070.

Homecoming is lunch at the Grand Canyon Cafe; coffee in the morning with my poppie; It is wandering around my three block radius of downtown Flagstaff and seeing all the new changes; why is it there always seems to be new bars? I see familiar faces and feel I am in another movie. Visiting with old friends on the sidewalks and in the grocery store; Catching up with the sisters; getting married, and new babies. All the kids have gotten so big ! It is the sound of rain through the open window and watching my kat adjusting to city life. We both look to the trees and I imagine us both wondering when we'll see our backyard in Casas Grandes again. The squash blooming; the radishes and basil coming up. I still live out of my bag. The year seems to have flown by.

It's one of those afternoons when the rain thwarted a coffee date with Dr. Jane Kelly and her family. It's not everyday my worlds of Casas Grandes cross over to my world in Northern Arizona. I wanted to introduce them to Bob Lomadofkie, and Phylis Hogan, from Wintersun and the Arizona Ethno-botanical Research Association. No time for coffee as they are driving to the south rim of Grand Canyon. I love that Bob gives them traditional Piki bread; and Phylis pulls out Dr. Jane's book on her research and collected stories of Yaqui Women. Time is elusive and you take what you can get. Document what you can and wave goodbye. I am grateful for the wonderful hospitality of my community and that is what is shared between both homes. The good people who make it home.