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Sharon Stewart
From the series El Agua es la Vida
Gelatin silver print
13 x 13 inches
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Gift of Sharon Stewart, 2010
© Sharon Stewart

For nearly two decades, Sharon Stewart has photographed the intimate, integral connection to water, land, and community found in the northern New Mexico village of El Cerrito. She believes that it provides a positive example of sustainability through cooperation and offers “harmonious solutions to the dissonance created by the reigning individualistic, consumptive lifestyle of our time,” as she writes in her artist statement. Aside from its functional role in village life, the acequia (pronounced “ah-SAY-key-uh”) also represents a rich cultural heritage. The tradition of passing knowledge about the world from generation to generation has been nearly as crucial to human survival as water itself. In continuing to use the acequia, residents of El Cerrito have chosen to maintain a connection to the natural resources of the region that grounds them in a place they call home. This picture’s title, Tareas (“tah-RAY-us”), indicates a section of the ditch assigned to a worker during the annual spring cleanup. Emphasizing its sinuous curves, Stewart shows the ditch as a passageway, rather than as a scar.