“Public art can be more than just something pretty to look at,” says said Michelle Laflamme-Childs, executive director of New Mexico Arts. “Art can prompt conversations about difficult topics, it can point to history or culture important to a community, and it can be a space for remembrance and healing.”
New Mexico Arts facilitated the installation of Luminaria, a three-piece artwork by international artist Gordon Huether, on the plaza of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to commemorated victims of gun violence.
The title, Luminaria, references a significant tradition in New Mexico: brown paper bags with cut out patterns, weighted down by sand and illuminated by candles from within. The work’s three sculptures, 7-ft, 8-ft and 9-ft in height, were inspired by the shape of a barrel cactus and feature eight long “petals,” which start at the base and curve up to connect at the top. Three seating components offer space for contemplation and reflection.
The art piece was commissioned a result of an appropriation from the New Mexico legislature to honor victims of gun violence. The piece resonated with the committee as it represents many items that are left during remembrance ceremonies, or descansos, placed at the sites of those who have died. Heuther’s research into these traditions inspired him to create an untraditional, uplifting design using bright colors, regional folk art and illumination from within the sculptures “to cast light as a beacon of joy and love for all those in suffering,” he explained.
“It is so important that victims’ lives, cut short and much too soon, are commemorated in a thoughtful and sensitive manner, with a space that expresses love and honor for anyone to come for a moment of respite or remembrance,” said Huether, a Napa, CA-based specialist in large scale public art.
Among Huether’s memorial works are: In Honor of the Fallen in Oklahoma City and the Napa 9/11 Memorial, and upcoming installations such as End of Watch at the San Jose(CA) Police Dept., the Sallisaw Veterans Memorial in Sallisaw, OK, and the Eternal Flame memorial in Atlanta, GA.