Flamenco exhibition at Farmington Museum packs visual wallop
FARMINGTON — Before he saw the "Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" exhibition at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe more than three years ago, Farmington Museum curator Jeffrey Richardson said he had only a layman's understanding of the subject matter.
That didn't stop him from being wowed by what he saw.
"When I first saw it, I was blown away by the beauty of the costumes," Richardson said, referring to the 20 or so dresses and matador outfits included in the show. " … The craftsmanship is exquisite. There are many aspects of the exhibition, but that really jumps to the forefront."
After its debut in Santa Fe, the exhibition hit the road, traveling to Silver City, Las Cruces and Carlsbad. This weekend, it makes its debut in the Four Corners area, opening at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park and opening a three-month run.
The show focuses on all aspects of flamenco culture — not just dance and music, but lifestyle — and celebrates its movement from 15th and 16th century Spain to New Mexico.
"They claim it is the first exhibition that really looks at the entire history of flamenco, its cultural impact and legacy," Richardson said.
The exhibition itself is sizable, testing the limits of the museum's Cassie Stiles Dallas Exhibit Gallery where it is located. Richardson said the show includes approximately 140 pieces.
"It fills up the entire gallery," he said. "As a matter of fact, we had to take a little bit of liberty with the narrative flow (of the exhibition) in order to make it fit. … It is chock full of interesting pieces. If you don't know a lot about flamenco before you see the show, you certainly will coming out of the exhibition."
In addition to the aforementioned outfits, the show includes posters, handbills, musical instruments, footwear, paintings, programs, photographs of iconic flamenco figures, recordings, other memorabilia and a full-scale replica of a horse bedecked in flamenco finery.
Many of those pieces are extremely colorful, and the clothing itself, as Richardson indicated, is remarkable with its rainbow hues, sequins and elaborate stitching.
The show's visual appeal is paired with its examination of the history of flamenco culture and its burgeoning worldwide appeal, with its popularity extending into such seemingly unlikely locales as Japan. Flamenco is an integral part of Spanish and Latino culture, but Richardson insists anyone can develop an affection for it.
"Flamenco dance has been recognized as a world cultural phenomenon," he said. "You don't have to be of a particular demographic background to appreciate the exhibition."
The reason for that is simple, he said.
"Flamenco was a true expression of one's personality," he said, explaining that for many of those who perform flamenco dance or music, it offers a form of expression not found elsewhere in life. Flamenco performers are able to express emotions through dance or song that have no other outlet, he said.
The exhibition also will feature audio and video components that highlight that kind of expression, he said, making clear the kind of commitment it requires to be a devoted flamenco artist.
"You appreciate how much work goes into it" when you see the performers in action, Richardson said.
"Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday at the museum, 3041 E. Main St. The event will feature a flamenco dancer and guitarist, food, and tours of the exhibition led by the curator from the Museum of International Folk Art.
The reception is free and open to the public. The show remains on display through June 1.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at email@example.com.