Multimedia artist and professional ultra/trail runner Christian Gering draws inspiration from running and his Native American heritage. Hailing from Katishyta (San Felipe Pueblo) and the Pi’pil people of El Salvador, he believes that “running is a form of art, and art is also a form of movement.” He balances his running achievements, which include winning and setting course records at the Javelina 100K and Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50 Mile, with creating art reflective of movement and the land.
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“So much of what I’ve learned through this process is being able to step into opportunity with confidence and knowing that I am capable.”
One of Christian’s recent projects was creating fabric prints for Janji, the first time a runner has designed the apparel. It was a new experience for him, which he equates to running: “It’s like that moment that you are on the start line and there’s anxiety, potentially … you’re excited by the environment and wondering if whatever you did is going to be enough. And just to remind people that when we put in the work and we manifest and we have that intention, you are enough, we all are capable of whatever we put our mind to.”
“A common saying that they would say would be, ‘go outside’ and I reflect on that so much because that is where the imagination for myself started.”
Christian’s parents encouraged him to be active physically and intellectually. Growing up in Nevada, there was plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation, and, he says, “I just always held that so close to my heart because when I got the chance to go outside, I had the chance to express myself.” He developed his imagination playing outdoors with his friends, where they created games from their surroundings.
Heavily involved in sports from an early age, he entered Nevada’s Olympic Development Program, hoping to become a professional soccer player. However, he became disenchanted by the politics behind it and the lack of a supportive environment. He decided that it was time to let go of his soccer “dream” and transition to something different.
“My dad thought it would be a great last bonding experience for the men of the house to share something together, something that would be of significance.”
Around the time that he decided to stop soccer, his older brother got out of Marine Corps boot camp, and his father suggested that they all run the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon together. During the year leading up to the race, he trained “maybe three months and not even consistently, it was probably like one day of the week I’d run, maybe the next week I’d run two days, and then take a week off and run one other day.” At mile 22 of the marathon, as he was limping to the aid station, his dad passed him, “just chipper, you know, big smile, and I could just already feel he has something to say and sure enough,he goes, “All that training, is it paying off for you, Christian?”
Christian went on to run cross-country in high school, but after graduation found himself on a different path.
“After high school I realized, well, I’m not gonna go for sports, so I’ll pursue the other, which is my artistic side. It’s not athletics; I’ll do art.”
He enrolled in the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where he started using marijuana and alcohol regularly and remembers “just kind of getting further away from moving my body and at the same time I’m starting to see a stagnancy in my creative flow because I’m not moving my body as much.” He left art school, and on a backpacking trip into the mountains with friends, felt that he was back in his community.
“I was going inward and really molding myself to be representative like the mountains, like the landscapes.”
He went to live with his grandparents, where he worked their farm alongside his grandfather every day, then would go for a run in the mountains. “So much of my relationship with movement,” he says, “was also tied to my connection-ship and relationship to land.” He enrolled at Fort Lewis College where he joined the track team, becoming their top runner and attracting the attention of the Native community.
“So I started to make these little zine infographics. I called it “imprints” in relation to setting down footprints on this earth that we leave behind and that hopefully others will pick up.”
Toward the end of his college career, Christian would be invited to speak to young people who were going on to higher education and would resonate with his story. He realized that he wasn’t reaching some of them with a speech, and wanted to give them “a gift of something else, [his] creative passion.” He created a zine that he would give to every participant, which led to him presenting workshops, sharing his artwork more, and ultimately to the relationship with Janji.
“When I think about it, going back to the cultural component, this is a life-way.”
Christian reflects, “At many points within many different communities, running was sought out as a form of transportation, a form of trade, a form of communication not only peoples to peoples but to the heavens, to the deities and beings above and below. But when you think about it, art was also a way to move a message.” What he wants to share with his most recent collection is that “we are that medium between these two components. Between the sky which is greater than us and is above us and the land below us. So much is us being that connection. We’re that node, we’re that median between those two points.”
“We can be grounded and we can be aspiring to greater things that we may not even know yet. And that is the middle ground. We are that connection.”
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“Thank you” to Christian. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.