Press Release

Tucson Museum of Art explores the original territories of the Tohono O’odham in The Place Where Clouds are Formed

Exhibition investigates the intersection of religion, migration and community
in the Sonoran Desert

Tucson, AZ – Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block (TMA) will celebrate the opening of The Place Where Clouds are Formed with a public opening on Second SundAZe Family Day, February 9, 2020. The exhibition will be on view through August 9, 2020.

The Place Where Clouds Are Formed investigates the intersection of religion, migration and community in the Sonoran Desert—more specifically in the original territories of the Tohono O’odham. The project started in 2018 as a result of a Magnum Foundation Grant and was expanded by Tucson Museum of Art with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Photographs by Gareth Smit and Amber Lee Ortega (Tohono O’odham, Hia-Ced O’odham) depict Tohono O’odham villages in Quitovac, Cu:wĭ I-ge:sk (San Francisquito), and Sonoyta—towns located in Sonora, Mexico—as well as Quitobaquito and the surrounding lands in Southern Arizona. Images are interspersed with poetry by Ofelia Zepeda, PhD (Tohono O’odham) and Amber Lee Ortega and critical text by Martín Zícari, providing additional context and meaning to the places. The installation includes a creative exploration by potter Reuben Naranjo (Tohono O’odham) to further explore this land.

The U.S./Mexico border in Arizona separates the Tohono O’odham as well as their sacred sites and ancestral land. This international border has long been the site of struggles over sovereignty. The desert has increasingly become the focus of political debates and issues related to immigration, disrupting the livelihood of its inhabitants and those who transit through it.

Tucson Museum of Art is committed to broadening how the museum presents exhibitions and engages local audiences through collaboration, and this exhibition, displayed in conversation with the permanent collection, exemplifies this pledge.

All are invited to the opening celebration of The Place Where Clouds Are Formed during Second SundAZe Family Day on February 9, with free admission from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities include:

  • Art-making activities, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Create watercolor landscapes, clay vessels and desert-inspired patterns
  • Artist Talk: Reuben Naranjo, 11 a.m. Artist Reuben Naranjo discusses his own artistic practice and traditional Tohono O’odham pottery (RSVP required at TucsonMuseumofArt.org/events or 520-624-2333)
  • Performance by Wa:k Tab Basket Dancers, 12:30–1:30 p.m.
  • The Place Where Clouds Are Formed: Reading and Reception, 2 p.m. A reception featuring a welcome and remarks as well as poetry readings by Amber Lee Ortega and Ofelia Zepeda.

This installation of The Place Where Clouds Are Formed is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant (MG-50-19-0044-19). Additional funding for this project is provided by Magnum Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, and the European Research Council.

Second SundAZe Family Day @ TMA is presented by the Stonewall Foundation with additional support from the David and Lura Lovell Foundation.

For general media inquiries, contact Anne Thwaits, Director of Communications and External Affairs, at AThwaits@tucsonmuseumofart.org or 520-616-2687