Yes, you read that right. Artist Mariel Miranda, second-year Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Photography, Video and Imaging program, will bring a dead bird back to life. Not once, not twice, but in 16 new, impossible ways. To pull off this feat, Miranda needs support. Fortunately she just earned the 2021 Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize, which is providing Miranda with up to $10,000 to complete her artistic vision.
For more than 30 years, the Centennial Sculpture Prize is given to an MFA candidate, specifically to support the completion of sculptural/3D artwork. The recipient is determined by a committee of staff and faculty via a proposal process. Previous honorees have included Benjamin Dearstyne Hoste, Marina Shaltout, and Karlito Miller Espinosa.
Miranda graduated with honors from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja in Tijuana, Mexico, with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She was raised in the Las Cumbres neighborhood of Tijuana, and her experience there informs her artistic work and research.
Sixteen Necromancy Wishes
Miranda’s proposed project, “Sixteen Necromancy Wishes,” envisions 16 ways in which a small, dead bird can be brought back to life using a taxonomic spell and visual arts. The Centennial Sculpture Prize will provide the support needed to bring the bird back to life, in 3D form.
“My aim in this project is to create an allegorical device to speak about the small and the silent,” wrote Miranda. “For the last 12 years I have lived the embodied experience of the daily threat of a narco-state that operates with impunity in my home country Mexico. Before coming to Tucson, I wondered about all those years now of the pain of death that passes through all of us. But also, and above all, I wondered about the immeasurable beauty of the small and silent acts of courage and love that are applied as tactics against all that terror — acts that we’ll never get to know.”
This project operates as a strategy for reframing the grieving process, a gesture to deal with confronting death and the exhausting desire to bring back those of us who are deceased.
“Mariel’s work shows a level of sophistication and maturity that is exceptionally advanced for an MFA student. I am so glad we can offer the support provided by this award in order to bring her project to fruition,” said School of Art Director Colin Blakely.
Using Eco-Friendly materials, Miranda will build 3 of these delicate and fantastic bodies and an experimental installation that acts as a home-site for them. With the help of professors, friends, and curators from the region of Tucson and Tijuana, she will decide the best place for the installation of her project. Possible sites include Biosphere 2 and The Botanical Garden at the Centro Cultural Tijuana.
“I am very grateful to the School of Art and to the sponsors who make possible the funding of this award that has been supporting the work of other students over the past years,” said Miranda. “I also want to acknowledge that the support of the UA Fellows during this first year, as a student, has been a fundamental factor that has allowed me to dedicate myself full time to the production and research of the four projects I have underway at the moment, the study time has been intense and powerful. I especially want to thank the PVI program/family/of which I am a proud member. The recognitions and grants that I have achieved throughout this year would not have been possible without the listening, advice, support, and friendship of my professors David Taylor, Sama Alshaibi, and Ellen McMahon as well as all my friends and colleagues who have been of enormous affective and intellectual support since the day I arrived at the University.”
Miranda has already earned much recognition and praise for her research and projects in her first year. Before arriving, Miranda was recognized as one of the University’s top graduate recruits through the University Fellows program.
The University Fellows Award is a prestigious fellowship offered only to the University of Arizona’s highest-ranked incoming graduate students. Fellows benefit from rich opportunities to forge new connections with people and ideas, while strengthening their foundational knowledge and professional preparation.
Within her first year, she earned yet another fellowship. This time through the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry. Miranda was named one of the 2021 Mellon-Fronteridades Graduate Fellows in January.
Mellon-Fronteridades fellows are community members, students, and academic professionals who engage in arts and humanities-centric interdisciplinary initiatives with border communities. These fellows foster and promote scholarship and creative activities that explore, analyze, and elevate the lived experiences and cultural resources of this region. Fellows create new ways for understanding border dynamics, and ultimately promote positive impact, in Arizona-Sonora border communities.
As a Mellon-Fronteridades Graduate Fellow, Miranda has been working on “Everything was Black and Yet, it Glowed,” an interdisciplinary work that explores translating her dream archive (audios of dreams she can recall from the previous night) that she has been collecting for the last 6 years into tangible forms. This project was also supported this year by the Graduate and Professional Student Council Research and Project Grant.
That was all within her first year. With two more years in the School of Art’s Master of Fine Arts program, who knows what will be next for Miranda.
Want to get involved? You can vote for your 3 favorite collages on our Instagram post to help Miranda choose which ones to make in 3D forms! Write a comment in this Instagram post with your 3 favorites of Mariel Miranda’s collages. We will update this story and Instagram to show which birds are chosen and the installation site.