The exhibition Mines to Caves by Cauleen Smith is on view at Aspen Art Museum through April 7, 2024 and features a film installation, a candle sculpture, and a textile banner that explore the themes of geologic extraction, environmental justice, and alternative futures. The exhibition draws its inspiration from Smith's previous film program GIMME SHELTER CINEGLYPHS, which premiered in September 2022 inside Smuggler Mine, the oldest operating silver mine in Aspen.

The film program consisted of animated cinematic hieroglyphs projected on the walls of the mine, creating a dialogue between ancient and contemporary forms of visual expression. The hieroglyphs depicted animals and landscapes that referenced cave paintings, the earliest known art.

In Mines to Caves, Smith reimagines and adapts the film program for a museum setting, transforming the gallery into a darkened, cave-like space. The film reflects on Smith's desire to return the mine to the mountain and to reorient towards a healthy relationship with the planet, while simultaneously questioning the traditional capitalist structures that drive overconsumption and land development, and proposing a more sustainable and harmonious way of living with nature.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a hand-sewn textile banner that proclaims “Mines to Caves” in gold letters. The banner is both a flag, a mantra, a heraldic tradition, and a poetic protest. Smith sees mines as a colloquial expression of romantic possession, and caves as a symbol of shelter and refuge. The banner draws on the long history of banners raised for celebration as well as social and political change, from those erected by labor unions, carried by community organizers and activists, or flown by marching bands or churches.

With Mines to Caves, Smith invites us to imagine a better present and future that is more respectful, compassionate, and creative. Additional information about the exhibition at Aspen Art Museum can be found here.

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