Cuyama Valley exhibit shows history of American West; on display at Bakersfield Museum of Art

September 24, 2019 /

The Bakersfield Museum of Art has an exhibit on display right now called Cuyama Valley.

Created by photographer Noé Montes, the exhibit displays the epic drama of human history that is continuously in play.

“Creating this work taught me a lot about the history of the American West and how it has shaped our present and will continue to shape our future,” Montes said. “I also learned a lot from talking to residents and hearing their stories and their views on life in the Cuyama Valley. I saw that although people have come to the valley for different reasons at different times, they all want similar things; a decent life for their families and an opportunity to move forward and develop. I hope that this is something that people can see in the work.”

Following the groups that once dominated the region such as the Chumash natives and European settlers, Montes recognizes the persistence and labor of its current residents in a place that has in turn, helped them lead honest and fruitful lives, the BMOA website says. Like many other rural regions across the country, this region is undergoing a population decline and a demographic shift.

“There are rural places like the Cuyama Valley all over the country that are going through similar changes and the survival of these places is not guaranteed,” Montes said. “It is going to take people working together and civic engagement by young people in order to continue this beautiful and dignified way of life. I hope that this exhibition helps people see and understand that.”

Montes shows in the exhibit that communities like Cuyama can use their past and present as a means of bridging differences to conquer a wide-range of obstacles, BMOA says.

Montes, born in Modesto in 1973, grew up in a family of migrant farm workers that traveled back and forth through California’s Central Valley following harvests. He found his passion for photography after high school, according to BMOA.

Over the last 25 years, Montes has been creating documentary work around specific social issues or geographic locations.

This project was made possible through the shared efforts of Noé Montes and Blue Sky Center. The Blue Sky Center is a non-profit organization in the Cuyama Valley. Their mission is to bring resources to the residents of the valley as well as help in the valley’s economic development, Montes said.

“One of the ways that they carry out their work is by partnering with artists,” said Montes. “Their mission is very well aligned with my work, which is ultimately to help people move forward in their economic, community and personal development.”

Cuyama Valley will be on display at the Bakersfield Museum of Art through Jan. 4.

Photo courtesy of Noe Montes.