Women to Watch 2024: Eliza Naranjo Morse

Blog Category:  NMWA Exhibitions
Eliza Naranjo Morse; Photo courtesy of Ucross Foundation

The seventh installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, New Worlds, is presented by the museum with the integral partnership of our national and international outreach committees.

The exhibition showcases 28 contemporary artists who respond to our extraordinary times—the global pandemic, advocacy for social reform, and political division—by reimagining the past, presenting alternate realities, and inspiring audiences to create different futures. We spoke with some of the participating artists about their featured work and practice.

Artist: Eliza Naranjo Morse (Tewa, Kha’p’o Owingeh)

Nominating Committee: New Mexico Committee

Eliza Naranjo Morse; Photo courtesy of Ucross Foundation

1. What themes does your work in New Worlds address?

The mural shows a powerful moment of gathering. Traveling from far away, through enormous amounts of effort, these Beings have found each other. They have brought their most useful knowledge of how to be within the Earth. Past, present, and future converge. I created this gathering to illustrate themes of relationships and possibility. Using these themes, the mural becomes an acknowledgement, an act of appreciation for the people who are working to critically consider best practices for how humans exist in this world.

2. Is this work representative of your oeuvre? How does it fit into your larger body of work?

In 2018, along with millions of others, I became a peripheral witness to ongoing school shootings and child separation efforts happening in the United States. The animals I had been drawing pushed me to acknowledge these stories. These artworks painfully, prayerfully expanded the purpose of my illustrative work. There are lifetimes of illustrations that could speak to these expressions of our dysfunction.

The mural for New Worlds is my most reverent expression of appreciation for the people carefully holding their Ancestor’s practical/spiritual knowledge and their own gathered information as they move through time. This mural fits into my larger body of work as a place marker. As I continue to illustrate, it shows I haven’t missed sharing that this kind of meeting and action are the most beautiful human creations I know.

Art gallery with various artworks of different sizes on the floor and on the walls.
Installation view of Eliza Naranjo Morse’s A Return to Relationship (2024) (right) in New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024; Photo by Kevin Allen for NMWA

3. As an artist, what are your essential materials and/or tools for building a new world?

A good use of time is an essential tool for my contribution to a new world. An understanding of relationships, possibility, and creative commitment to the tasks at hand is also a valuable tool. I am fortunate to bear witness to the efforts of communities, museums, schools, and governments as they navigate how to apply human-centered practices to their institutional systems. These examples become powerful maps for thinking outside of traditional Western approaches.

4. Did any books, music, film, news, or other art inform your work in this exhibition?

The book Indigenous Research Design: Transnational Perspectives in Practice (2023, edited by Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Nathan D. Martin) is a powerful tool created by people who are deeply committed to considering all life. They have developed actions around ways to do this today for a healthier future. This book gives real-life context to my drawings, which only begin to address layers of resilience, challenges, and future thinking; the book provides examples of how these are being actively worked on.

A woman artist paints a mural on a wall of a museum gallery.
Eliza Naranjo Morse at work on her mural A Return to Relationship (2024), part of the exhibition New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024; Photo by Laura Hoffman for NMWA

5. How have the events of the past several years—the global pandemic, increased advocacy for social reform, and striking political division—changed or challenged your practice?

In this era, I hope that the momentum of compassion and awareness continues to grow and becomes a valued tool for our local, national, and global agendas. These events have made my work more purposeful in illustrating aspects of the relationship humans have to life as it is— and as it is possible.

New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024 is on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from April 14 to August 11, 2024.

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