Alibi V.29 No.8 • Feb 20-26, 2020 

Art Magnified

Lost and Found

Michael P. Berman’s Perdido Sierra San Luis

Perdido Sierra San Luis
Photo by Clarke Condé
This is a beautiful book. Not to discount the content and context of Michael P. Berman’s work, on the contrary, it truly is a good place to begin because the book itself—the print quality, the layout, the fonts—prepare the reader for what is a substantial work of art. The publisher, Museum of New Mexico Press, has done an exceptional job and it should be acknowledged. Don’t judge a book by the cover is clever and all, but before you have anything else to go on, it is what strikes you first.

Michael P. Berman is a photographer and environmentalist who took to wandering around the Sierra San Luis mountain range of the Mexican borderlands several years ago. There is a Mexican border in our imagination with walls, guns, drugs and desperate people. This is not that. Perdido Sierra San Luis is a meditation on this place, rendered in black and white photographs and reflective prose. They consist of his encounters, not simply with the natural world, but with the people and their relics that shape the land. It is the type of work that only comes from the meditative state you can achieve on a long walk.

guy with snake
Michael P. Berman
Since entering the Anthropocene, the art world has produced untold volumes considering the imprint of humanity on nature. This work deviates from the common approach in a rare, marked and existentially unsettling way. In the forward, Tim DeChristopher lays this idea bare in sobering terms: “The great mistake of the environmental movement was to assume that we destroyed the wilderness because it was fragile and we knew not what we did. But the truth is that we destroyed it because we are fragile, and on some conscious or unconscious level, we have always known it.”

Michael P. Berman
Certainly not the cheeriest thought to mull while wandering around the mountains, but it speaks to the fallacy of a separation between humanity and the natural world that is at the root of many of our problems. Berman’s Perdido Sierra San Luis suggests that if we can realize that we are really not as lost as we sometimes pretend to be, we might be better able to see where we are.

Perdido Sierra San Luis

By Michael P. Berman
Book Launch and Signing
Friday, Feb. 21 at 6pm
Bookworks Albuquerque
4022 Rio Grande Blvd. NW Ste. H
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