Cara Romero, 'Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert'. Photography: James Mead for The Spaces

Photographer Cara Romero has cast the Coachella Valley’s ancestral heritage in a starring role in her Desert X 2019 installation; ‘Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert.’

The Chemehuevi tribal member has erected five billboards that reframe views of the Chemehuevi, Cahuilla, Serrano and Mojave cultures. Romero’s blown-up photos loom large above the highway and tell the stories of four young boys – and those who came before them on the land, which has been inhabited by the Cahuilla tribe since 5,000 BCE.

Cara Romero, 'Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert'
Cara Romero, ‘Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert’

In one, a figure runs in front of Palm Springs’ iconic wind turbines, and in another, all four boys line up in headdresses under scrawl reading, ‘NO WALL’.

Romero largely works on commercial photography, but this installation stands as her largest to date.


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The project draws attention to the spiritual connection the indigenous people hold with their sacred valley. Lining the highway, the energy and power of the portraits in succession nod to a hopeful future whilst paying homage to the native ancestors who occupied the land pre-colonisation.

Read next: 7 must-see installations at Desert X



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