Fact and fiction from the legendary Wild West meet with a playful attitude in Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings, photography by Nancy Newberry. The exhibition is in the Albany Museum of Art’s East Gallery Oct 17, 2019-Jan 4, 2020.
“Photographed in both Texas and Mexico, this project is a survey of my own backyard, merging documentary portrayals with dreamlike creations to investigate notions of nationalism and community,” said Newberry, an internationally known Texas artist whose work explores the interplay between individuality and social affiliation.
The artist said her mother’s Italian heritage and her Texas upbringing influenced the exhibition, which “draws inspiration from classic Spaghetti Western movies, the 1960s subgenre of Italian Western films made famous by director Sergio Leone.”
“I have long been interested in the American archetype the Wild West and how its iconic self-image is represented in television, movies and interpreted in the U.S. and by other cultures,” she said. “Simply telling people I am from Texas begins a discourse laced with stereotypes made famous by the genre.”
Appropriating, reinterpreting and questioning Western mythologies while also reflecting cultural and political conditions of Europe after World War II, Spaghetti Westerns “developed into a repository for issues concerning national Identity on both sides of the Atlantic,” Newberry said. “I am intrigued by the present-day use of ‘the Wild West’ to either approve of or to disparage the new frontier, and I am curious in what it could say about the current state of the American myth.”
Subjects in the photographs, which emphasize costume and uniform, act out characters that are part of a group or team.
“In Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings, Mexican charros, American cowboys and military soldiers become suspended in a playful sense of preparedness at the Texas-Mexico border—a territory of blended nationalities, legendary historical battles, contested land, and a very famous wall,” she said. “This is the true Wild West.”
Newberry’s photographs can regularly be seen in the pages of magazines and are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Centro de Arte Alcobendas, Spain, and Villa Noailles, Hyères, France. Her award-winning work has been exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe, and China.