GOING WITH THE FLOW: ART, ACTIONS, AND WESTERN WATERS is a group exhibition exploring the vital role of water in the arid Southwest. No other element is more crucial to life on Earth, and as the title of this exhibition suggests, we must follow its lead and heed its warnings. Water, like art, takes many forms: it changes and flows in reaction to its environment; it finds ways to keep moving, recovering, and recharging above and below the land. As stewards of this land, we can benefit from the example water sets by emulating its adaptability. By doing so, we might discover new paths of understanding and repair as we navigate the challenges of climate change.

This exhibition’s artists present multidisciplinary projects both inside and outside SITE Santa Fe, including temporary site-specific artworks, sound, installation, performance, and momentary actions that engage the communities of Santa Fe and its surrounding regions throughout the duration of the exhibition. With this multifaceted approach, we hope to provoke thought about the crucial issue of water and offer access to broader audiences.


Paula Castillo

Paula Castillo explains how her work explores intersections of physical and cultural landscapes.

Paula Castillo explains her collaborations with fellow New Mexican artists and the importance of community gatherings.

Paula Castillo explains her participatory project, Reverse the Curse, a ritual intended to protect the health of our rivers.

Paula Castillo describes her use of cinematography as part of Reverse the Curse.

Paula Castillo illustrates the jetty system’s role in the Rio Grande – both its intended, beneficial use and its sometimes detrimental consequences.

Eco-romantic poet Terry Mulert recites WATER POEM, commissioned by Paula Castillo as part of Reverse the Curse.

Paula Castillo is a manita artist based in Belén, New Mexico. Her sculptural and performative installations explore the intersections between physical and cultural landscapes. Her work reveals critical interrelationships between humans, place, and environment, creating allegorical narratives that imagine the complexity involved with home places. Castillo’s goal is to expose our dense attachments to all “others.” For this exhibition, Castillo presents Reverse the Curse (2021–ongoing) and Jetty Jack (2023).

Reverse the Curse is a participatory project focused on recognizing nature, especially rivers, as a subject deserving of protection. The project, centered on the Rio Grande, brings attention to the importance of active grassroots guardianship for rivers and uses local magic to reveal the desire for reparation to this vital oasis. Beginning in 2021, Castillo organized in-person events along the Rio Grande where community members performed ritual remedios for the mal de ojo curse afflicting the river. Citizens living in communities along the Rio Grande came together at several pedestrian bridges crossing the river to enact a common mal de ojo reversal and protection—spitting at the victim. By spitting water into the river from the bridges, participants provided an offering back to a waterway that has given everything of herself to human communities.

Jetty Jack is a sculpture made of steel angle iron and plexiglass printed with a transparent film image from the Reverse the Curse community event, taken by photographer Don Usner. The work reflects on unjust environmental conditions produced and sustained through engineering practices. Castillo constructed an approximation of a Kellner jetty, a mid-twentieth-century civil engineering construction for controlling erosion caused by the rapid settlement of the Rio Grande Valley. The area’s landscape and ecosystem changed dramatically when forests of Douglas fir trees surrounding Jicarita Peak were clear-cut to provide wood for railroad ties. The jetty system, which was successful in straightening a meander, was later used to straighten the entire Middle Rio Grande Valley, leading to unintended consequences such as interrupting the river’s natural processes, disturbing habitats, and promoting exotic species. Jetty Jack reflects on these engineering practices and their effects on the environment.

Basia Irland

Basia Irland is a multimedia artist whose work calls attention to international water issues, rivers, waterborne diseases, and water scarcity. Part of her practice involves facilitating and fostering collaborations—with rivers and among people. She invites scholars, scientists, and creatives from diverse disciplines to participate with her on her multifaceted projects. For this exhibition, Irland presents several works: three Contemplation Stations (2015–ongoing), Río Grande, Source to Sea Repository (1999), Traveling Kit in Search of a Tinaja (2022-23), two large photographs of her Río Grande Ice Books (2009), and a public release of a series of riparian seed-laden Ice Books made in honor of the Santa Fe River.

Basia Irland encourages you to enjoy one of her Contemplation Stations with relaxing reflections.

Woven from plant material collected along the banks of local rivers and streams, Irland’s three Contemplation Stations are sited in Santa Fe’s Railyard Park and along the Santa Fe River. These unique, contemplative places are made from natural materials such as willow and elm. Please refer to the artwork map for location details.

Basia Irland describes the historical, cultural, and environmental significance of Río Grande, Source to Sea Repository, and its contents.

The Río Grande, Source to Sea Repository is a sculptural backpack containing scientific data, water analysis, hydrographs, photographs, and maps. The River Vessel Canteen and its accompanying Logbook traveled the Rio Grande for Irland’s Río Grande, Source to Sea, Gathering of Waters, a project that took five years to complete along the entire 1,875-mile length of the Rio Grande, which begins in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado, flows through New Mexico, becomes the border between Texas and Mexico, then enters the Gulf of Mexico at Boca Chica. For this project, hundreds of participants put a small amount of river water into the River Vessel Canteen, wrote in the Logbook, and passed them both downstream to another person. Participants in this project were required to be present at the river and interact with someone else downstream, thereby forming a kind of human river that brought awareness to the plight of this stream, which is always asked to sacrifice more than it possesses. Lasting personal connections resulted from these interactions, bonds formed between people that might not have met otherwise.

Basia Irland explains Traveling Kit in Search of a Tinaja. The kit serves as a sculptural archive when researching a small and unique body of water.

Traveling Kit in Search of a Tinaja is a sculptural archive calling our attention to surface waters in arid environments. A tinaja is a small pocket of water that collects in depressions carved into rock by the scouring movement of sand or gravel during arroyo flow. It can also be formed by a waterfall or from a spring seepage. Each tinaja has its own ecosystem that supports a diverse array of life. Irland is fascinated by the notion of anhydrobiosis, which is essentially life that can exist in the absence of water. Certain aquatic desert organisms cope with very long periods of drought, even up to a hundred years, by shriveling up until they are completely dehydrated. In so doing, their internal structures become crystalline. They are virtually dead—but can come back to life whenever a small amount of moisture falls on their bodies. This phenomenon has been compared to long-dormant seeds that, when finally planted in moist soil, begin to sprout.

Basia Irland describes the river restoration efforts behind her Ice Books.

Ice Receding/Books Reseeding: Santa Fe River is a series of hand-carved ice sculptures in the form of books made from frozen river water. Irland worked with local ecologists to ascertain the best seeds for the Santa Fe River’s specific riparian zone and embedded the books with native seeds to form an “ecological language” or “riparian text.” As the Ice Book melts, the seeds will be released into the river’s current.


Basia Irland briefly illustrates the two photographs depicting her Ice Books.

For this special iteration, Irland collaborated with Dr. Mark Stone and graduate student Kritan Subedi, both of the Civil Engineering Department at the University of New Mexico, to develop a monitoring device that can be implanted into the Ice Books to collect scientific data and imagery while the ephemeral, seed-laden sculptures float downstream along the river. Ice Receding/Books Reseeding: Santa Fe River is released with permission and support from the Santa Fe Watershed.

Sharon Stewart


Sharon Stewart explains the focus of her gelatin silver photograph series, El Agua es la Vida.

Stewart describes the significance of acequias – irrigation canals important to the agricultural history and cultural tradition of New Mexico.

Sharon Stewart explains the grief experienced by valley communities as a result of the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires in 2022. Firescapes illuminates the death and rebirth that is the natural cycle of Earth’s powerful elements: fire and water.

Photographer Sharon Stewart lives and works in the mountain village of Chacón, Mora County, New Mexico. For three decades, she has focused on the economic, social, familial, and religious influences that define the cultural landscape of Northern New Mexico. Stewart’s engagements with her community have included serving on its Agua Pura Mutual Domestic Water Association board; coordinating the successful effort to save Chacón’s 125-year-old postal service; and contributing to La Cultural Cura, a yearly celebration of Mora Valley rituals and traditions.

El Agua es la Vida (1992–ongoing) is an extended survey of photographs taken over decades in El Cerrito, a remote village situated on a double oxbow of the Pecos River in Northern New Mexico. The photographs examine El Cerrito’s dependence on water from the acequia, a mutually-operated gravity flow irrigation channel. Acequia users honor water as a community resource rather than as a commodity, and share in abundance and scarcity. Repartimiento (distribution) is a vital tenet of acequias as a cultural-commons in which water rights are attached to the land, not to individuals. As parciantes, acequia members elect a mayorodomo to oversee maintenance throughout the year and especially during la limpia, the annual spring cleaning. For generations, parciantes have shared responsibility for maintaining a waterway that sustains their families, orchards, gardens, fields, and livestock while providing a rich riparian zone for wildlife, shade trees, and native plants.

In 2022 Stewart was forced to confront the destruction wrought by the area’s US Forest Service-instigated Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. The ancient waterways veining through the Mora Valley sustained intense flood damage catalyzed by profuse summer rains. In her newest series Firescapes (2022), she documents the lasting fire damage to local acequias, as well as community efforts to repair this delicate ecosystem. To date, thirty-five acequias have been compromised, with more being assessed. Some federal and state funds for critical repairs are beginning to flow, but it is the parciantes who have begun the long task of reviving the ditches.

There Must Be Other Names for the River

Marisa Demarco explains the genesis and ongoing collaborative efforts of There Must Be Other Names for the River.

There Must Be Other Names for the River illuminates the many ways connection emotes for the audience during the project’s performance, through visual and sonic data.

There Must Be Other Names for the River’s research process is important for bringing awareness of global warming’s immediate impact on the Rio Grande.

Marisa Demarco explains how scientific flow data coupled with professional singers informed the musical composition as a tribute to the Rio Grande.

Marisa Demarco explains the beginnings of There Must Be Other Names for the River and the perspectives she, Jessica Zeglin, and Dylan McLaughlin share having lived alongside the Rio Grande throughout their lives.


There Must Be Other Names for the River is an indoor, outdoor, and living performance artwork to collectively honor the Rio Grande with gratitude and intentional reflection.

In 2019, Marisa Demarco, Dylan McLaughlin, and Jessica Zeglin developed There Must Be Other Names for the River, a music composition spurred by severe drought brought on by human-caused climate change and miles of dry riverbed where there should be water in the Rio Grande. Ever-evolving, this data-based musical score has inspired a variety of implementations such as live performance, sound and object-based installation, and a web-based gathering place for interactive listening and contribution. Demarco, McLaughlin, and Zeglin implore us to “consider the many ways we interact with the river we currently call the Rio Grande” and to “consider the many names people who live with the river have called it for thousands of years. Consider the many ways of relating to the river that these names represent.”

There Must Be Other Names For The River (2019-ongoing) can be heard at timed intervals along the length of the ramada in SITE Santa Fe’s neighboring Railyard Park. The singers’ pre-recorded voices emerge from concealed speakers placed along the pathway, representing more than 1,800 miles of Rio Grande flows. Six musicians vocalize streamflow data from six points along the Rio Grande, engaging with the river’s past, present, and future.

The body of water is also articulated as part of this work in a large-scale durational painting made with river water and pigment, featured inside SITE Santa Fe. The mural is updated with daily streamflow data from the point along the river that’s nearest to the museum, changing the mural’s shape and flow like the river itself. The work raises questions such as “How will we continue to live with and through the river?” and “How will we continue to live with and through each other, as we’re connected by its waters?”

The conclusion of this multifaceted exhibition of There Must Be Other Names For the River is a live choral performance presented in SITE Santa Fe’s auditorium on July 29, 2023. Local and regional musicians who live along the river will embody fifty years of streamflow data. Monica Demarco sings the Headwaters; Ryan Dennison sings the Albuquerque area; Kenneth Cornell sings just below Elephant Butte Dam; Mauro Woody sings Big Bend; Antonia Montoya sings Juárez/El Paso; and Marya Errin Jones sings the mouth of the river at the Gulf of Mexico. Performing from historical references, as well as from their personal relationships with the river, the vocalists envision and realize possibilities further into the future than scientific studies currently predict.

Marisa Demarco surfaces and interrogates contemporary truths through performance, worn sculpture, installation, sound composition, and journalism. She is the founder of the Gatas y Vatas Festival for boundary-pushing performance and Milch de la Máquina, a performance-art crew. She is also a leader of Death Convention Singers, the largest noise collective in the Southwest.

Dylan McLaughlin is a multidisciplinary artist who critiques ecologies of extraction and threatened ecosystems. He weaves together Diné mythology, ecological data, and environmental histories, while holding space for complexity. What transpires is the sonification of relationships to land through experimental music composition and improvised performance. In his multimedia installation and performative works, he looks to engage the poetics and politics of human relations to land.

Jessica Zeglin’s work centers on particulars of intersections between human and ecological social systems and emphasizes listening and awareness toward our fundamental entanglement with others’ lives. Her works in drawing, sound, textiles, and installation begin from a research practice founded in concepts of deep time, process, and emergence, while looking critically at personal, colonial, and layered histories of living and contested space.

M12 Studio


M12 explains how Fountain (Orphan), a cast-iron water well pump, invites viewers to contemplate our historical and present-day use of water.

M12 Studio is a small artist-constructed studio and non-profit organization based in the Southwest committed to amplifying the aesthetics of rural cultures and landscapes. M12’s projects vary in form, ranging from large-scale sculptural installations to small books and ephemeral events. For this exhibition M12 Studio presents Fountain (Orphan) (1900–2023) and GIS Land Animations (2023).

Fountain (Orphan) is a restored, cast iron agricultural water well pump originally used in a turn-of-the-twentieth-century farm worker housing encampment. The advent of large-scale agricultural operations in the US led thousands of migrant workers, many of them orphaned children, to arrive by train to work as farm laborers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As an homage to these laborers and in order to contemplate our present-day use of water on a massive scale, this work stands alone in Railyard Park as a reminder of the farm hands and farm yields often dislocated from their places of origin. Restored and powder coated, Fountain (Orphan) resembles an artifact from another time. No longer a functional water source, Fountain (Orphan) is an aesthetic gesture that invites viewers to contemplate together the impacts of modern agriculture, its legacies, and its futures.

M12’s series of GIS Land Animations should be considered in relation to Fountain (Orphan) in order to widen our frame of understanding about water depletion in the Southwest. The studio uses imagery from sources such as the High Plains Water District, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, and State and Federal offices to generate original dynamic profiles of cultural data; visual and spatial information about rivers and waterways, floodplains and railways; and other territorial markings in the digital and physical landscapes. The GIS Land Animations are displayed alongside historical artifacts, photographs, and objects situated in a nearby case. Visitors are invited to reflect on the contents of the table, which represent a sampling of complicated narratives about settlement and extraction, profit and loss. In the United States, the railways committed us to moving goods and water—but also to moving people, from whom millions of descendants now live. The ghosts of child labor and groundwater depletion continue to haunt us, vulnerable and wandering, abused and reformed by a complexity of circumstances that reorient their flows. Like cycles of water themselves, even misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the landscapes that surround us offer the promise of change and adaptation along often-disorienting paths.