Meza-DesPlas' work featured at fall art walk
FARMINGTON — Artist Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, a recent transplant here from Dallas, takes particular delight in standing in a gallery and watching from afar as people interact with her work.
Of course, the usual gallery experience involves viewers simply gazing at a painting or sculpture or photography or piece of pottery, appreciating its form and considering its message. But in the case of Meza-DesPlas’ work, which will be featured in an installation called “Wave” that opens at Studio 116 this weekend as part of the fall art walk, there frequently is a deeper exchange that takes place between viewer and artwork — even a physical one.
“It’s funny — I was in a juried show at the Durango (Colo.) Arts Center this summer, and my piece was a hair drawing,” Meza-DesPlas said, describing her work, which includes strands of her own hair sewn to the canvas or fabric with small embroidering needles and mounted on wood.
Meza-DesPlas watched as a woman approached the piece, thinking the thin line she was seeing had been drawn on the surface. But as the woman drew closer to the piece, she realized to her astonishment that the line — actually a strand of Meza-DesPlas’s hair — was floating at one end.
“People have different reactions to it,” Meza-DesPlas said, laughing as she recalled that experience in Durango and recounting how some viewers even reach out and touch it. “Some people think it’s pencil or pen, and it’s not until they get closer that they see the lines are actually entering their space.”
Meza-DesPlas had no mentor to guide her in that style. In fact, she could name only one other artist who does anything similar, a Chinese artist who glues hair to different surfaces.
That was an approach Meza-DesPlas tried when she began experimenting with this style of work. But she found it unsatisfactory.
“It looked messy,” she said. “I was not good at sewing, so when I tried that, there were a lot of hits and misses. It took me a while to get the hang of it. But now my works are made up entirely of my sewn hair.”
The latter is a distinction Meza-DesPlas emphasizes. Using her own hair is important to her — for practical reasons and otherwise.
“My hair is very, very hard, very coarse,” she said. “So it’s easier for me to work with because it doesn’t break.”
There’s a deeper side to her reasoning, as well.
“It’s very meditative for me, brushing and collecting my hair each morning and putting it aside," she said. "It becomes part of my daily ritual. I like the idea that I put a part of myself into the art.”
There’s an element of religion to hair, as well, she said, citing the Bible passages in which Mary Magdalene washes the feet of Christ and dries them with her hair, as well as the passage in which the mighty Samson has his hair cut by Delilah and loses his strength.
“I think of hair as having this dichotomy,” she said. “It can be attractive on people. But on the other hand, if you find a hair in your food, it’s disgusting. I like that dichotomy.”
Meza-DesPlas acknowledged that she became frustrated when she was learning to sew her hair to fabric, but she never came close to abandoning her new style.
“I thought if I could just use drawing techniques, and just use hair, I’d be on to something,” she said. “It’s the challenge of doing something I don’t know I can do.”
Her installation at Studio 116, 116 W. Main St., focuses on images of iconic female figures and is divided into three waves. The first wave features figures such as Susan B. Anthony, a crusader for the women’s suffrage movement in the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s. The second includes Gloria Steinem, the 1960s and '70s feminist activist who founded Ms. magazine. The third wave includes contemporary feminist figures, those who emerged in the 1990s or later, such as Marcelle Karp, a feminist writer, editor, television editor and producer. Meza-DesPlas’ pieces feature a short synopsis of each of those women.
Studio 116 owner Karen Ellsbury said she became familiar with Meza-DesPlas when she saw her work displayed at that DAC show earlier this year. Ellsbury was drawn to it immediately and thought her gallery — which has developed somewhat of a reputation for featuring adventurous work — would be the best local option for Meza-DesPlas when she was ready to stage a solo show.
“I’m impressed with people who have something to say with their work,” Ellsbury said. “Mine does not. It’s so unusual — I mean, who does that? I think I like it because it really makes you step back. It’s a wonderful way to break out of the little molds we put ourselves into.”
Ellsbury acknowledged the installation is particularly timely, given the way feminism has become an issue in this year’s presidential campaign.
“Sometimes we need to be reminded we still need to carry the banner of feminism in society,” she said.
Ellsbury is especially proud to be presenting Meza-DesPlas’ first local solo exhibition in her gallery.
“Yeah, how cool is that? … I like her as an individual, as well as an artist,” Ellsbury said. “It’s an honor to introduce her to the local art scene.”
Another highlight of the art walk will be an exhibition of pieces crafted for the “Dogs” fundraiser, which will raise money to offset art walk marketing efforts. The show will be presented at the Wal-Art Gallery, 422 W. Main St., during the art walk before being moved to the Three Rivers Art Center, 123 W. Main St., for the next month.
Dozens of local artists have created 8-by-10-inch, two- or three-dimensional pieces featuring dogs. Images of those pieces have been incorporated into a deck of playing cards. The original pieces will be sold for $50, and decks of cards will be sold for $12.
Art walk committee member Liz Stannard said the fundraiser is an annual event, though every other year the money that it generates is used to help underwrite the costs of the annual “People’s Choice” competition. In the past, it has included such themes as Day of the Dead and steampunk.
This year’s theme was not a difficult one to choose, she said.
“It seems like almost everybody loves dogs,” she said.
The list of participating artists includes Doug McNealy, Janet Burns, Robb Rocket and Roswell, Ellsbury, Patrick Hazen, Trudy Farrell, Michael Bulloch, Rod Hubble and Andrea Landon, Stannard said.
The artists were free to respond to the theme in whatever way they wanted, she said, explaining that she already had seen whimsical works that featured a hot dog and a corn dog.
“There’s a lot of variety, and I think people will really enjoy looking at it, if not purchasing the decks (of cards) that are being printed,” Stannard said.
Wal-Art also will feature the photography of Jim Daly during the art walk, while music will be performed by guitarist George Rowe.
The work of potter Barbara Van Hook will be featured at the nonprofit Three Rivers Art Center during the art walk. Board President Sue Johnson said Van Hook’s work ranges from raku to horsehair pottery.
“I love that she is able to do so many wonderful shapes on the wheel,” Johnson said. “She’s quite talented on the wheel. Her shapes are graceful but lightweight.”
Johnson said she became familiar with Van Hook when they were both working at San Juan College, and she grew to appreciate her work when Van Hook began taking classes at TRAC.
“She is a talented person who is quite shy,” Johnson said.
At 101 S. Orchard Ave., in the space beneath Jake’s Tattoos and Flash, artist Time Essary has organized a show of Halloween-inspired art. A Farmington area native and an artist at the tattoo shop, Essary said most of the member of the shop’s staff will be participating, and he anticipates that dozens of pieces will be on display, along with three or four short horror films that were made by Brent Garcia. The artwork will range from such two-dimensional styles as paintings and drawings to three-dimensional works such as sculptures and masks.
Essary described his work in the show as primarily dark, surrealistic acrylic and oil paintings.
“I’ve been an artist since I was a kid,” he said. “Most children draw and doodle and use crayons. I just never stopped. But I didn’t take painting seriously until five years ago. Now, if I’m not painting something, I’m prepping for a painting.”
Essary said he had an art tutor when he was child who introduced him to such concepts as composition, but he is largely self-taught.
The Artifacts Gallery, 302 E. Main St., also will be a featured stop on the art walk. The gallery’s monthly themed show will be “Cup of Joe II,” which will include the work of several local artists. The featured artists at the gallery will be Connie Falk and Chris Cook.
Other sites included in the art walk are the Dusty Attic and 119 W. Main St. A postcard featuring a map of the art walk participating venues can be picked up at any of the galleries.
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: The fall art walk
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14
Where: Venues throughout downtown Farmington
For more information: Call Liz Stannard at 505-360-0147