Road memories: “Mortal Highway” by Judith Hidden Lanius | Books

On the side of the highway somewhere in northern New Mexico, a simple white cross, affixed to a weathered wooden post, marks the crash site where someone lost their life. The memorial descanso (a memorial erected at the site of an accident to honor the person who died there) is for a young man who, after going out one day to chop wood in the mountains, is never returns home.

“His parents never knew what happened,” writes artist and writer Judith Hidden Lanius in her new monograph deadly highway (Daylight Books, 128 pages, $45). “They’ve been waiting for him all day.”

Descansos are a fairly common feature along highways in northern New Mexico, serving as markers where, typically, young men (and occasionally young women) have lost their lives. Erected by family members and friends, the descansos are presented in two complementary threads – the word and the image – which create an emotional resonance.

Artist and writer Judith Hidden Lanius

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