The Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, in collaboration with a “Getting to Know Europe” grant from the European Union, launched a Scholar-in-Residence program that gives European-based visual artists and culture professionals an opportunity to bring their work into the Chapman community and engage with new perspectives and ideas. Our current scholar-team in residence is the duo of Janire Nájera and Matt Wright. Nájera is a Spanish artist who combines her experience with photography and journalism to share the stories and histories of people around the world; Wright is an UK artist who specializes in 360 degree photography. Both currently live and work together in the UK.

Introduction Text and Photography from Moving Forward, Looking Back

Introduction Text and Photography from Moving Forward, Looking Back.

Moving Forward, Looking Back: Journeys Across the Old Spanish Trail is an artistic project that combines photography, video, and sound to document Nájera’s exploration of the Spanish legacy along the Old Spanish Trail. Nájera came across the idea of creating this project while on vacation in New Mexico where she was surprised to meet several people of Spanish decent. As she came into contact with more people, Nájera was amazed to find pockets of Spanish culture preserved throughout the Southwest and West Coast. This discovery prompted Nájera to began an exploration of the complex interplay between identity, heritage, and history.

Moving Forward, Looking Back began in March 2014 when Nájera and Wright embarked on a road trip through the Southwest in their RV, named Orwell. They followed the footsteps of Antonio Armijo, a trader who opened the route of the Old Spanish Trail between the states of New Mexico and California in the 19th century. Along the trail, Nájera heard the stories of people, families, and communities that illustrated the lasting effects of Spain’s presence in America. Nájera started her journey in Santa Fe, New Mexico and passed by areas in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Nevada until finally arriving in Los Angeles, California. Nájera’s journey evokes the trail’s adventurous spirit and captures the untold family stories of those who live along it.


Photography from Moving Forward, Looking Back by Janire Nájera

Photography from
Moving Forward, Looking Back
by Janire Nájera.

Moving Forward, Looking Back is currently on view in the Henley Galleria on the 2nd Floor of Argyros Forum. The exhibition will be on view from February 01 – June 27, 2017. Hours: Monday – Friday, 7am – 8pm and Saturday – Sunday, 8am – 8pm.

As part of their residence at Chapman University, Nájera and Wright have collaborated to create a digital version of Moving Forward, Looking Back. The virtual exhibition allows the user to walk down the hallways of the Henley Galleria on a computer or phone screen. All of the photographs and didactic texts can be clicked on to view a more detailed image. The audio from Nájera’s interviews can also be accessed by clicking the film roll icon that appears next to the photographs. If you can’t make it to see the exhibition in person, or if you just want to spend more time looking at the photographs, this digital exhibition is the way of the future!

We asked Nájera to explain why creating virtual exhibitions are an important part of her and Wright’s projects.

“We want to make our work more accessible for more people. And doing a virtual exhibition in this day is not that hard. We make the virtual exhibitions by doing panoramas, then we use software to make the links pop up so that people still feel like they are exploring the exhibition. Moving Forward, Looking Back is about a journey, so I didn’t want to give instructions about how to explore everything on the virtual exhibition. I wanted people to find out how things happen on their own, and to do some exploring. I think the main intention behind the virtual exhibition is to make the work more accessible, and to leave a legacy of the work so that once the exhibition is down you will still be able to explore it virtually. In three years, you could still feel that you are inside the Argyos Building, looking at the exhibition… People who cannot come to Chapman University are still able to experience it in a way that is more immersive than if they are just look at a photo or a video.”


Link to Virtual Exhibition:


Photography from Moving Forward, Looking Back by Janire Nájera.

Photography from Moving Forward, Looking Back by Janire Nájera.


Funding for this exhibition and the artist residency was generously provided by the European Union (EU)—in partnership with EU, Chapman University’s Wilkinson College of Art, Humanities, and Social Sciences is engaged in the program, EU and US: Getting to Know Europe, and collaborating under the project, Creative and Cultural Industries: Unlocking the EU-US Potential. Moving Forward, Looking Back is a project of SPAIN arts&culture, the cultural program of the Embassy of Spain. In August 2013 there was an open call among the members of SPAIN RED, a platform for the promotion of Spanish artists and creators in the United States. The premise of the contest was to present a significant panorama of the culture of the “Spanish-American”, the living testimony of more than 300 years of Spanish presence in this territory. This project sought to reflect this experience with a contemporary and attractive language through a creative, original, and accessible vision. There were more than 30 proposals, and the proposal presented by photographer Janire Nájera was chosen.

Funding is also generously provided by the Escalette Endowment and the Chapman University Art Collections, and Wales Arts International.

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