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A fascinating conversation with a deep-thinking artist

CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

A lot of what you read in the newspaper and the Beehive is short, punchy and — let’s face it — fairly easy to understand. Sometimes arts stories can’t be those things. For my Sunday Spotlight column, I wrote a piece about Caleb Duarte, one of the six artists featured in the Fresno Art Museum’s terrific “Breakthrough” show. Duarte made an installation for the museum based on a performance-art piece he did in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

I’d describe the performance piece and the installation in an easy paragraph for you, but I can’t. Hence, the column. Let’s just say Duarte’s work involves getting nearly buried alive. It includes some intriguing ideas about physicality and the corporeal experience we have of being in our own bodies, plus some pretty heady musings about economic and political issues. And it helps to know Duarte’s own back story when considering his art.  I feel privileged to have the space when I need it to dive into complex issues, because art sometimes needs to be complex.

So, if you have a few minutes to really get into the meaning and spirit of a work, take the time to read this column. I enjoyed getting the chance to talk at length with Duarte and enriching my own experience at “Breakthrough.”

After the jump, I include some photos that help add to the understanding of Duarte’s work.

Performance art: The villagers of San Cristobal De Las Casas trail Duarte’s partner, Mia Rollow, to a hole dug in the ground:

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Group effort: Rollow symbolized the “colonizer” in the piece:

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Installation: For his contribution to the “Breakthrough” show at the Fresno Art Museum, Duarte created a 12-by-6- foot slab of “dirt” (made of concrete and soil) that seems to float out from the wall. A local performer stood immobile within the piece for the show’s opening:

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Audience: The crowd was filmed at the museum opening, thus themselves becoming part of the finished work.

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